I read American Dirt last week. It was a book I couldn’t put down; it had me captured from the very first beginning. When I finished the last page – even after having read the Author’s Note at the end – I thought this was an important, timely, and necessary book. As I wrote my quick review, I was becoming more aware of the controversy surrounding this book but really only on a surface level. I finished the review and posted it.
Here is my original review (posted to my Instagram, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts but have since been deleted so as not to add to the promotion or hype):
I had no idea the ways I was perpetuating harmful stereotypes. The comment section quickly exploded…and I genuinely welcomed the conversation. I consider myself to be open-minded and appreciate people pointing out my blind spots. The comments were insightful and I immediately got the sense that I had got this one wrong. I am always on the side of bettering myself, and I don’t ever want to be on the side of harm – be that through oppression, racism, stereotyping, or ignorance.
I began searching #ownvoices reviews.
Here are some to start with:
- “Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature” by: Myriam Gurba
- Cummins’ Non-Mexican Crap by: David Bowles
- “Big Lit Meets the Mexican Americans: A Study in White Supremecy” by: Micahel Nava
- “The Danger of a Single Story by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Check out the story highlights of the following #bookstagrammers: @lupita.reads, @booksteanhenny, @academicmami. (This is not an exhaustive list, but just to get you started.)
I read them and then would sit with them. I reread my review through that new lens. I started examining how my promotion of this book was offensive to people who have actually lived this life – not some fictionalized and sensationalized version of the truth.
I used the example of Sin Nombre, a movie produced years ago, that never fell under criticism, as a defense of my feelings. It was rightfully pointed out that this is a Straw Man argument – “an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument” (via dictionary.com). Again, my mind was in overtime…finally starting to get a sense of where the #ownvoices people were coming from.
My intention was never to hurt anyone, but I now realize that my intention isn’t what is important here. What’s important is that by giving this a 5-star review, I perpetuated oppression and stereotypes.
I hurt people.
And for that I’m truly sorry.
If you’d like to purchase books from #ownvoices authors, go to @lupita.reads instagram profile and check out the story highlight labeled “Mex Lit”. Also, Daci (@daciandthebooks) has created a graphic with some books listed as well. (Again, I know there are more…this is just to give you a starting point!)
I will be purchasing some of the books listed tomorrow when I head out of town!
Also, I will be deleting the original post so as not to add to the hype and promotion of this book.
Thank you to this community for helping me learn, grow, and be better. Though it’s not your job to educate anyone, I appreciate those of you who are.
Again, I am truly sorry and I hope to do better next time.
Special shoutout to Oscar (@booksteanhenny): thank you for taking the time to DM me. You were genuine and kind and respectful and I probably learned the most from you. I appreciate you helping me be better.