Students at Georgia Southern University gathered outside a dorm to burn author Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel Make Your Home Among Strangers after accusing her of making “generalizations about the majority of white people” at an October 9 talk with students (Crucet was previously my professor).
Crucet’s autobiographical novel focuses on a Cuban-American protagonist who is accepted to an elite university and feels lost in the midst of her ultra-privileged classmates. The book was recently assigned in first-year writing classes at Georgia Southern. Crucet gave a talk about the book followed by a Q&A that white students used as an opportunity to accuse the author, who attended Cornell University, of racism for writing from her own lived experience, according to Georgia Southern’s student newspaper the George-Anne:
“‘I noticed that you made a lot of generalizations about the majority of white people being privileged,’ one respondent said into the microphone. ‘What makes you believe that it’s okay to come to a college campus, like this, when we are supposed to be promoting diversity on this campus, which is what we’re taught. I don’t understand what the purpose of this was.’”
Amid “audible reactions from the audience” Crucet used the question as an opportunity to point out the privilege inherent in the student’s statement:
“‘I came here because I was invited and I talked about white privilege because it’s a real thing that you are actually benefiting from right now in even asking this question,” Crucet said. What’s so heartbreaking for me and what is so difficult in this moment right now is to literally have read a talk about this exact moment happening and it’s happening again. That is why a different experience, the white experience, is centered in this talk.’”
According to the George Anne, Crucet answered the rest of the night’s questions “politely.”
Following the talk, a student at Georgia Southern tweeted footage of students outside her dorm burning Crucet’s novel over a grill.
On Twitter, Crucet, who is currently an associate professor at the University of Nebraska, responded to the book burning by acknowledging the “amazing, brilliant students,” who disrupted the “aggressive & ignorant comments during the Q&A.” At her book signing after the talk, Crucet wrote “we hugged & cried. I’m happy to know them and also legit worried for their safety.”
In since-deleted tweets, other students tagged Crucet in messages that included photos of her defaced book and instructed the author to “work on your ignorance and racism towards white people.” Crucet was scheduled to speak at another event on campus on Thursday. The event was subsequently canceled. On Twitter, Crucet said the event “was canceled because the administration said they could not guarantee my safety or the safety of its students on campus because of open carry laws.”
Crucet did not respond to a request for comment, saying she will be releasing a statement in regards to the harassment and book burning via her agent. Crucet’s latest book, My Time Among the Whites: Notes From an Unfinished Education, was released in September.
Update, 2:50 p.m.: In a statement, Crucet said that after her Q&A her hosts “moved me from the lodging they had arranged in town to another town” after “a crowd formed outside the original accommodations.” She added that her book “began as an act of love and an attempt at deeper understanding. I hope that GSU can act from the same place and work to affirm the humanity of those students who might understandably feel unsafe [...].”