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Tipsheet

Want to Guess Why the Publishing World Has Become Much More Inclined to Censor Works?

In this Feb. 13, 2020 photo, Oprah Winfrey, left, and “American Dirt" author Jeanine Cummins appear in a conference room just above Modern Studios in Tucson, Ariz., where they taped an Oprah's Book Club show about Cummins' controversial book. (AP Photo/Hillel Italie)

If The Washington Post needs help defining what ‘wokeism’ is, look no further than what happened to the author of ‘American Dirt.’ The left-leaning publication tried to hit back at Republicans for attacking something they might not understand, though they didn’t clarify this abrasive and illiberal slice of the far left ascending in cultural centers. Like the fungal infection that destroyed the world in "The Last of Us," the "woke" mob has entrenched itself in a variety of hubs and making life hell for people whom they feel are spreading violence by merely offering a differing opinion or, in this case—writing a book about escaping bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartels. 

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Oprah Winfrey included it in her ‘Book Club,’ but the leftist contingent who exhibit an incessant need to whine about everything destroyed the marketing campaign for this book. The author, Jeanine Cummins, was viewed as being unqualified to write such a harrowing story of survival about Mexicans, despite being part of the Latino community; she’s half Puerto Rican. It’s a system of racial apartheid on cultural matters, which this slice of the Left ironically endorses. What’s worse is that the publisher of this novel caved to the ‘woke’ masses (via NYT): 

The book’s momentum was nonstop. Riding on starred prepublication reviews from the trades, the book, a fast-paced road novel about a Mexican bookseller and her son trying to cross the border to escape a murderous drug cartel, was named an Indie Next List Pick by independent bookstores. Then came the rapturous reviews. “A thrilling adrenaline rush — and insights into the Latin American migrant experience,” raved The Washington Post. Cummins “proves that fiction can be a vehicle for expanding our empathy,” said Time magazine. Finally, the golden ticket: Oprah selected “American Dirt” for her book club. “I was opened, I was shook up, it woke me up,” Winfrey said.

It all fell apart with stunning speed. Following a blistering online campaign against the author and others involved in the book over who gets to write what, and in response to threats of violence against both author and booksellers, Cummins’s publisher, Flatiron Books, canceled her book tour. Cummins’s motives and reputation were smeared; the novel, eviscerated. “We are saddened that a work of fiction that was well intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor,” Flatiron’s president said in a statement.

Looking back now, it’s clear that the “American Dirt” debacle of January 2020 was a harbinger, the moment when the publishing world lost its confidence and ceded moral authority to the worst impulses of its detractors. In the years since, publishers have become wary of what is now thought of as Another American Dirt Situation, which is to say, a book that puts its author and publishing house in the line of fire. This fear now hangs over every step of a fraught process with questions over who can write what, who should blurb and who can edit permeating what feels like a minefield. Books that would once have been greenlit are now passed over; sensitivity readers are employed on a regular basis; self-censorship is rampant. 

[…] 

…in December 2019, a month before the novel’s release, Myriam Gurba, a Latina writer whose memoir, “Mean,” had been published a couple of years earlier by a small press, posted a piece that Ms. magazine had commissioned as a review of “American Dirt,” and then killed. In her blog post and accompanying review, Gurba characterized the novel as “fake-assed social justice literature,” “toxic heteroromanticism” and “sludge.” It wasn’t just that Gurba despised the book. She insisted that the author had no right to write it. 

A central charge was that Cummins, who identifies as white and Latina but is not an immigrant or of Mexican heritage, wasn’t qualified to write an authentic novel about Latin American characters. Another writer soon asserted in an op-ed that the “clumsy, ill-conceived” rollout of Cummins’s novel was proof that American publishing was “broken.” The hype from the publisher, which marketed the book as “one of the most important books for our times,” was viewed as particularly damning. Echoing a number of writers and activists, the op-ed writer said it was incumbent upon Mexican Americans and their “collaborators” to resist the “ever-grinding wheels of the hit-making machine,” charging it was “unethical” to allow Oprah’s Book Club to wield such power. More than 100 writers put their names to a letter scolding Oprah for her choice.

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It's un-American. It’s illiberal—and antithetical to what this country stands for regarding the freedom of expression. To go after Oprah, according to their rules, is also racist. The publishing world is the institutional figure who should have an ironclad adherence to the freedom of speech. 

To the Left, the book is bad because, at its core, a half-Latina wrote it, along with some other pseudointellectual jargon. The same treatment that Cummins endured also happened to Meg Smaker, a documentary filmmaker whose film Jihad Rehab earned her a target on her back by leftists. These people are an insufferable form of cancer, who attack anything that makes them upset, which is everything.

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