“Writing My Latino Novel” is the Social Media Response to American Dirt and the Perpetuation of the Stereotype

American Dirt BELatina

Nowadays, no opinion thermometer is more accurate than social networks. Especially Twitter, where the hottest debates can even determine a White House presidency.

This time it was the response to Jeanine Cummins’ new novel American Dirt that triggered a series of viral posts under the hashtag #writingmylatinonovel a trend that rejects commonplaces and the perpetuation of the Latino stereotype from privileged white literature.

Although Oprah Winfrey incorporated Cummins’ book into her latest Book Club selection, criticism from the Latino community over the past few days has been relentless.

Oprah The Dirt BELatina
Photo Credit CBS This Morning Interview

The story tells the journey of a mother and her son who must flee Mexico and try to find refuge in the United States and, despite the fact that the author claimed to have documented the process of creating the characters for four years, the distance between her voice and the reality that the immigrant community in the region is experiencing has become palpable.

We no longer speak of a white person talking about the experience of excluded minorities, but of the alleged appropriation of the narrative and experience of others when it is economically convenient.

While authors such as Stephen King, Ann Patchett, Sandra Cisneros, and Julia Alvarez have praised the text the book has already sold the rights to a film other critics, such as MexicanAmerican author Myriam Gurba have had more to say.

In a column for Tropics of Meta, Gurba attacks Cummins’ work for reinforcing the color difference within Latino culture.

Writing in Spanglish, the writer describes American Dirt as a “obra de caca” that “belongs to the great American tradition of doing the following:

  1. Appropriating genius works by people of color
  2. Slapping a coat of mayonesa on them to make palatable to taste buds estados-unidenses and
  3. Repackaging them for mass racially “colorblind” consumption.

Gurba goes even further saying: “Rather than look us in the eye, many gabachos prefer to look down their noses at us,” referring to the colonialist remnant of seeing otherness as an appropriable phenomenon.

“Rather than face that we are their moral and intellectual equals, they happily pity us. Pity is what inspires their sweet tooth for Mexican pain, a craving many of them hide,” she furiously adds. “This denial motivates their spending habits, resulting in a preference for trauma porn that wears a social justice fig leaf. To satisfy this demand, Cummins tossed together American Dirt, a ‘road thriller’ that wears an I’m-giving-a-voice-to-the-voiceless-masses merkin.”

But since literature has many voices, perhaps it is better to let the public speak and really see how stereotypes are dismantled, one tweet at a time.