The publisher of the controversial novel American Dirt has canceled the remainder of the author's book tour as critics and many in the Latinx community criticize the book for its portrayal of immigrants.
In a statement Wednesday, Flatiron Books president and publisher Bob Miller acknowledged the controversy surrounding the novel and its author, Jeanine Cummins, and said they decided to cancel the tour because of "specific threats," including that of physical violence, that have been made against her.
“We are saddened that a work of fiction that was well-intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor," Miller said. "Unfortunately, our concerns about safety have led us to the difficult decision to cancel the book tour. Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety.”
The announcement comes after the publisher canceled several promotional events, most recently this week in Southern California, where Cummins was scheduled to discuss and sign books at stores in La Jolla and Pasadena.
In place of the tour events, Flatiron will be organizing a series of town hall meetings with Cummins and people who have raised objections to the book.
American Dirt tells the story of Lydia Quixano Pérez, a middle-class Mexican bookseller who flees Acapulco with 8-year-old son Luca after a drug cartel violently attacks a quinceañera she's attending, killing her journalist husband who earlier had profiled the cartel leader, Javier. Lydia and her son make the treacherous journey to the US on a freight train, befriending other migrants along the way.
The book was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club but was swiftly denounced by Latinx authors, poets, and others who have said the novel perpetuates stereotypes about Mexicans and appropriates work by people of color.
Many also took issue with Cummins herself and how, despite saying she identified as white a few years ago, she identified as Latinx in an interview about the book's release.
In his statement, Miller said the conversations about the novel have "exposed deep inadequacies" in how the company addresses issues of representation "both in the books we publish and in the teams that work on them."
"We are committed to finding new ways to address these issues and the specific publishing choices underlying this publication," he said.
He also acknowledged that mistakes were made in the way the company promoted the book, saying they should have not said Cummins' husband was an undocumented immigrant without mentioning that he was from Ireland, and they should not have had a floral centerpiece with barbed wire at an event last May.
"We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them," Miller said. "Simply put, we wish to listen, learn and do better."