[Libs-Or] "American Dirt" and the Social Justice Warriors

Bryce Kozla brycekozla.wccls at gmail.com
Tue Feb 4 10:50:31 PST 2020

It's interesting to see this particular characterization of critical
dialogue around this specific media, for which the author received a
seven-figure advance and a spot on Oprah's Book Club. One might argue that
critical review is a necessary part of collection development when deciding
what books to order, reorder, recommend, or weed. That said, like MCL,
Washington County has 239 holds on 51 copies, and those are just the
physical print versions of the book.There is certainly demand for the book
and it is certainly getting into the hands of those who wish to read it.

For those that may have missed the controversy, here is some background:
"Digging Into 'American Dirt'"
<https://www.latinousa.org/2020/01/29/americandirt/> by Antonia Cereijido
at Latino Times
Here's a BuzzfeedNews article that breaks it down a bit as well,
but with fewer people close to the content and a more broad coverage of the

As you might see, there is more to this story than who can write what

There seems to be a rush to turn valid criticism into some sort of mob,
since Internet trolls used this opportunity to threaten the author. You've
got to wonder who that really benefits.

As an information professional I strive to continue to think critically
about my work and listen to the conversations around the media we provide.
The upcoming OLA Conference in Bend
<http://oregonlibconference.org/2020/program/> has some promising looking
sessions to further that  learning. If you're reading this thread and are
interested, I hope you'll join me!


On Tue, Feb 4, 2020 at 7:14 AM Anna Skinner <factwrangler at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi, Tony. My local library system, Multnomah County, shows 542 holds on
> 189 copies of the book, and another 387 holds on 52 copies of the audio
> version. A WorldCat search shows it's available at 601 libraries.
> So it's not like libraries are out there burning the novel in piles on the
> sidewalk, or telling anyone what they can and can't read.
> Anna
> On Mon, Feb 3, 2020 at 10:39 PM Tony Greiner <tony_greiner at hotmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Librarianship is in danger of losing one of its foundations- that no one
>> can tell you what you can read, or what you can write.  Let's not let that
>> slip away.  As I hope you know, Jeanine Cummins' new novel *American
>> Dirt, *which tells the story of a middle-class Mexican woman suddenly
>> reduced to refugee status, has been the subject of attacks from those
>> who want to silence any voice or story they do not approve of. These
>> attacks are not primarily on the quality of the book, but on the idea that
>> a white American woman dare write a fictional story about Mexicans. The
>> censors, and the threats of violence from their supporters have led to the
>> cancellation of Cummin's book tour, including an appearance at Powells.
>> Paired with that bigotry, the idea that a writer should be silenced if
>> her characters don't match her skin color has been given serious hearings
>> in the media. To my knowledge, only the wise and big-hearted Oprah WInfrey
>> has taken the position that the book should be viewed on its merits, and
>> last I heard, she was still planning on featuring the book on one of her
>> programs.
>> That said, the advocates of silencing others have tasted victory in
>> cancelling the book tour. They may choose to continue their campaign of
>> censorship by calling for removal of the book from library shelves. With
>> that real possibility in mind (and given the silence from the American
>> Library Association, which has chosen to look the other way,) I offer this
>> defense that librarians may choose to take against the censors.  It is a
>> list of books with white protagonists written by famous people of color.
>>  (Some of the titles on this list were found in the research of Robert
>> Fikes, a librarian at San Diego State University, and Martin Japtok of
>> Palomar College.) If the censors assert that a white woman should not write
>> fiction about a Mexican woman, then ask them if they wish to censor these
>> authors as well.  Included is a thought from a better writer and thinker
>> than I can ever hope to be.
>> Tony Greiner
>> * “No human culture is inaccessible to someone who makes the effort to
>> understand, to learn, to inhabit another world”- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
>> Novels with a protagonist of one race or culture written by an author of
>> another race or culture: Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck:  Tortilla Flat; The
>> Pearl. Nobel Laureate Pearl Buck:  Good Earth, and others. Buck has also
>> been a target of race-based criticism, but she spoke Cantonese, and her
>> work has been praised by Anchee Min. There is a statue of her in Nanjing,
>> China.   Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro.  Remains of the Day.  David
>> Guterson. Snow Falling on Cedars. Winner of the Pen/Faulkner award for
>> Fiction, 1995. Dubose Heyward. Porgy. Praised by Langston Hughes, who said
>> that  Heyward's  brings "with his white eyes, wonderful, poetic qualities
>> in the inhabitants of Catfish Row that makes them come alive." This book is
>> the basis for George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.”  "Porgy and Bess"
>> has had some criticism, but was also praised by Duke Ellington and recorded
>> by many black jazz musicians. Gershwin’s will stipulates that the opera may
>> only be produced with a black cast. James Patterson.  A series of detective
>> novels featuring Alex Cross. James Baldwin.  Short Story: “The Man Child.”
>> Ann Petry.  Country Place. Petry isn’t well known now, but her first novel,
>> The Street, (set in Harlem) was the first novel by an African-American
>> woman to sell 1,000,000 copies.  Richard Wright. Savage Holiday. Wright’s
>> novel about an insurance executive has no black characters.  Zora Neale
>> Hurston. Seraph on the Suwanee. This novel looks at the life of poor white
>> ‘crackers’ in Florida. *
>> * Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  Dunbar, better known as a poet, had two novels
>> with only white characters, The Uncalled (1898) and The Love of Landry
>> (1900) a western. *
>> **tony_greiner at hotmail.com**
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