Flatiron Books, publisher of American Dirt, the much-hyped novel about a Mexican mother and her son trying to make their way to the U.S. to escape a drug cartel, announced today that it is canceling the rest of the 40-city national tour by the book's author, Jeanine Cummins, which launched in Washington, D.C., on January 22. Cummins made only five stops, the last one on Saturday evening, before the tour was officially ended today. Besides Washington, D.C., the tour had already stopped in New York City, Boston, Madison, Conn., and Nashville.
In a prepared statement announcing the tour’s cancelation, Bob Miller, Flatiron’s publisher, disclosed that the remainder of the tour was canceled due to "specific threats to booksellers and the author" which in some cases included "threats of physical violence." Miller added that “we believe there exists real peril to their safety.”
Left Bank Books in St. Louis and Blue Willow Books in Houston previously canceled Cummins’s scheduled visits to their stores, explaining that they did so out of concern that they would not be able to put a stop to possible disruptions that would prevent them from holding the kind of discussion they had envisioned. Flatiron also previously canceled three of Cummins's scheduled stops in California.
However, Cummins will be sent out on the road again by Flatiron, which is going to organize town hall meetings.Cummins “will be joined by some of the groups who have raised objections to the book," Miller wrote, adding: "We believe that this provides an opportunity to come together and unearth difficult truths to help us move forward as a community.”
In his statement, Miller acknowledged that the publisher had been caught by surprise by the anger and frustration expressed by many, including those posting comments on social media under the hashtags #DignidadLiteraria and #AmericanDirt. “The fact that we were surprised is indicative of a problem, which is that in positioning this novel, we failed to acknowledge our own limits,” Miller said. “The discussion around this book has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation, both in the books we publish and in the teams that work on them.”
Miller also admitted to mistakes made by the publisher specific to its promotion of American Dirt. “On a more specific scale, we made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out this book,” he stated. “We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the migrant experience; we should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland; we should not have had a centerpiece at our bookseller dinner last May that replicated the book jacket so tastelessly. We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”
Released on January 21, American Dirt has sold nearly 49,000 print copies, according to NPD BookScan.
UPDATE: Myriam Gurba, the writer whose scathing review has been said by many as touching off this firestorm is also receiving racist-tinged threats in retaliation for her criticisms of American Dirt and its author. According to Vox, Gurba shared one with that publication. It reportedly read, "Please confront the police in person" so that "one of them will relieve you of the burden of a life spent in feckless fury. Alternatively, make me a taco.” Gurba also tweeted last night that she had disclosed the threats received when she talked to Alexandra Alter of the New York Times about Flatiron's cancellation of the tour. Gurba complained that there was no mention of the threats against her in the New York Times coverage today. When PW reached out to Gurba this morning, she confirmed that she has received threats, including the one cited in Vox, but says that she cannot discuss the other threats against her. "I'm too scared," she told PW.