Authors throw dirt at Oprah Winfrey for including Jeanine Cummins title on her Book Club list

04 February 2020 - 12:33 By Mila de Villiers
Oprah Winfrey: from social justice advocate to supporter of inimical literature?
Oprah Winfrey: from social justice advocate to supporter of inimical literature?
Image: Reuters
'American Dirt' has been criticised for its insensitive depiction of migration.
'American Dirt' has been criticised for its insensitive depiction of migration.
Image: Supplied

Oprah: doyenne of talk shows. The face of overcoming adversity. Philanthropist. Huisgenoot's go-to weight fluctuation celeb. Stedman Graham's on-again-off-again partner. Self-made billionaire. Idol to many. 

Yes, Ms Winfrey has entered the general populace's imagination for various reasons, but “propagator of appropriationist literature”?

A mystified “nooit” ought to softly escape the lips of her plentiful devotees. 

Surprising as it may seem to Winfrey-philes, the inclusion of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins on Winfrey's popular Book Club list was met with valid indignation from more than 100 authors across the globe. 

Cummins's novel recounts the plight of a middle-class Mexican woman and her son's attempt to flee the country after the murder of their family by a drug cartel. Their destination? The USA. 

In an open letter to Winfrey, published on Literary Hub on January 29, America's screen queen is urged to rethink and retract the selected title, penned by a writer who is neither Mexican nor a migrant. 

Signed by 138 authors, Winfrey is excoriated for promoting this work of fiction, widely regarded as undermining and oversimplifying the immigrant experience and appropriating Mexican culture. 

As per an extract:

“In the informed opinions of many, many Mexican-American and Latinx immigrant writers, American Dirt has not been imagined well nor responsibly, nor has it been effectively researched. The book is widely and strongly believed to be exploitative, oversimplified, and ill-informed, too often erring on the side of trauma fetishization and sensationalization of migration and of Mexican life and culture.”

Dear reader: click here to read the whole letter.

Dear Oprah: raak wys.