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

Meredith Farkas meredith.farkas at pcc.edu
Tue Feb 4 12:30:23 PST 2020

Tony, I am so disappointed by your unwillingness to even consider that
perhaps your white privilege is making you unable to see the nuance in this
story or the very real pain of Latinx authors who do not get the
opportunities in publishing that white people do. Instead, you appear to be
parroting Fox News talking points.

I did not see anyone calling for *American Dirt* to be banned. Flatiron
Books has also confirmed that there were no death threats made against
Jeanine Cummins (on the other hand, there have been documented death
threats from the alt-right against critics of *American Dirt*). If
anything, cancelling the tour has inflated her book sales significantly
because it played into the alt-right narrative that people were trying to
silence Cummins.

Tony, for all your bluster about intellectual freedom, I'm surprised that
you are not concerned about the silencing of Latinx and other BIPOC authors
by a majority white publishing industry that is still far more likely to
give opportunities to white authors. At a time when there are plenty of
talented Latinx authors who are telling similar (and more
culturally-authentic) stories, they gave a 7-figure advance to a woman who
five years ago said she was white, but has now rebranded herself as Latinx
and peppers her Twitter profile and speech with Spanish words. Clearly even
the folks at Macmillan recognized that they had a problem if they agreed to
make substantial changes
I support #DignidadLiteraria and believe that they are the ones trying to
stop the silencing of voices in publishing. Social justice is a movement
FOR intellectual freedom in that it raises up the voices of those who
didn't previously have a voice in our society. That some white people see
that as silencing white voices is telling.

By writing the slur "social justice warriors" did you mean to suggest that
you are standing in opposition of social justice? I hope not.


Meredith Farkas, Faculty Librarian, Library SAC Chair
Pronouns: she/her
Portland Community College Library, Sylvania Campus
meredith.farkas at pcc.edu

On Mon, Feb 3, 2020 at 10:39 PM Tony Greiner <tony_greiner at hotmail.com>

> 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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