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The controversy around Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt is bubbling online.
Public opinion was initially very much in favor of the highly anticipated immigrant-based novel, released this week. Oprah even picked it for her infamous book club. But reviews published in the New York Times and Tropics of Meta dragged the book for its seemingly inauthentic voice. Myriam Gurba’s review criticized Cummins for perceiving “her own country through the eyes of a pearl-clutching American tourist.” Essentially, the viral review attacked the book for cultural appropriation, being “trauma porn” for a liberal white audience, and leaning on stereotypes to tell its story.
As controversy continues to build, several high-profile celebs are on the receiving end of criticism for promoting the book. Gina Rodriguez, no stranger to controversy, is one such celebrity. After promoting the book on her Instagram, the Jane the Virgin actress is getting slammed by critics.
American Dirt follows a mother and son on their journey from Mexico to America as they flee the violence of the cartel. Their journey through the desert was intended, according to Cummins, to humanize “the faceless brown mass” that she believes many people view immigrants as.
Rodriguez has been embroiled in scandals on and off for years now. In October 2019, she was forced to apologize for publicly posting herself saying the N-word. Just over a year earlier, she was slammed for yet another apparently anti-Black comment. Her interpretation of the wage gap when it comes to women of color also came under fire in late 2018.
Critics quickly pounced on the 35-year-old actress after she posted about American Dirt on her Instagram. “Here’s my latest read,” Rodriguez wrote. “Hope it’s yours too.”
Fans of the actress, along with her detractors, wasted no time in slamming the move. “Gina Rodriguez promoting the dirt book,” one Twitter user wrote. “Mama did NOT research.”
Gina Rodriguez promoting the dirt book... mama did NOT research— Reina Sultan wants to write a book (@SultanReina) January 21, 2020
The sentiment was shared by people all over social media. “The amount of clown shit Gina Rodriguez does so consistently is almost hilarious,” another user wrote.
The amount of clown shit Gina Rodriguez does so consistently is almost hilarious— You hate to see it (@j_davis614) January 22, 2020
the deeper hole gina rodriguez keeps digging for herself❤️ https://t.co/S6iJd53hwL— alexia arrizurieta (@AlexiaArriz) January 22, 2020
Gina. Rodriguez. Is. MESSY— jackieim (@jackieim) January 22, 2020
Lmaoooooooooooooooo siri what's the opposite of a plot twist https://t.co/AElz8jwlp9— Daniel José Older (@djolder) January 22, 2020
A number of immigrants and Latinx writers have dragged the book—and particularly its author—for telling a story that doesn’t connect with the lives it is supposedly based around. “I am an immigrant. My family fled El Salvador with death pounding on our door,” Los Angeles Times writer Esmeralda Bermudez wrote on Twitter. “The terror, the loss, the injustice of this experience shaped everything about me. I see no part of myself reflected in #AmericanDirt, a book white critics are hailing as the great immigrant novel.”
It’s not surprising because the work is so good, but it’s still awesome that @lesbrains’ epic destruction of #AmericanDirt has become so much the center of the discussion of the crazy hyped novel. The traffic at @TropicsM has gone through the roof https://t.co/weZXJlnVTl— Alex Sayf Cummings🌹 (@akbarjenkins) January 18, 2020
Rodriguez has yet to respond to her critics.
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Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.