A bookstore in Houston has canceled an upcoming event with Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt. The cancelation follows a major outcry from writers of color and the Latinx community over the novel’s portrayal of Mexico and Mexican migration, particularly as imagined by a predominantly white-identifying writer with little firsthand experience of either. It’s not the first cancelation, and it’s likely not the last.
Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston had planned to host Cummins on February 3, but tweeted on Tuesday that though “[i]t was our hope to have a meaningful conversation about the book and the crisis on the US-Mexico border, which affects our city deeply...[i]t has since become clear to us that we could not deliver the event we had envisioned.”
“We hope that you will visit us and engage us in conversation about these and other important topics,” the bookshop tweeted. “We are listening.”
Blue Willow’s event was one of several canceled stops on the American Dirt tour, which is in full force as we speak. On Monday, NBC News reported that three upcoming bookstore events were canceled. One was planned for Monday at Warwick’s in La Jolla, California; another, scheduled for Tuesday, was supposed to be held at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. NBC News reports that those cancelations were actually at the behest of the book’s publisher, Flatiron Books, which reportedly cited alleged “safety concerns.” (More likely, though, Flatiron Books was worried Cummins would be hit with some hard questions.)
Vroman’s published a statement on their website’s events page:
This event has been canceled by the publisher. Months ago when booking the event, we believed we were booking a novel about an important issue of our time and hoped it would spark needed discussions about immigration. The controversy surrounding this book has ended up sparking another important conversation about own voices. In the end the publisher has cancelled the event but not before our staff and our community engaged in critical conversations about immigration, the horrible atrocity happening at the US border by the US government, freedom of speech, and own voices. For these conversations we are grateful and we hope they continue.
A third bookstore, Left Bank Books in St. Louis, also canceled their scheduled American Dirt event. In a post on their website, the bookstore said that though they “sincerely believed it would be an opportunity to have an overdue public conversation about the deplorable actions of our country towards people at the border,” they decided to pull the plug after “[p]osts on social media, calls to our venue partners and others were made insisting we cancel the event.”