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Entertainment 'American Dirt' publisher vows to increase Latinx staff, published authors

04:50  05 february  2020
04:50  05 february  2020 Source:   latimes.com

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  What you need to know about Oprah Winfrey's controversial new book club pick American Dirt Why American Dirt, Oprah Winfrey's new book club pick, is controversialThe story follows a mother and son who are forced to flee their native Mexico and head to the United States as migrants. Winfrey explained why she chose the book during her Twitter reveal: “Like so many of us, I’ve read newspaper articles and watched television news stories and seen movies about the plight of families looking for a better life, but this story changed the way I see what it means to be a migrant in a whole new way.

Publisher cancels Jeanine Cummins tour for American Dirt over safety fears. In response to concerns about the broader publishing industry, Knowles and other Latinx writers formed a coalition called #DigidadLiteraria to “combat the invisibility of Latinx authors , editors and executives in the US

In New York City, leaders of the Dignidad Literaria campaign — or “literary dignity” in English — are celebrating after the publisher Macmillan, which owns Flatiron Books, has agreed to expand Latinx representation in its staff and its publications .

Less than a week after canceling Jeanine Cummins’ entire “American Dirt” book tour and acknowledging “deep inadequacies” in its launching of the bestseller, the publishing company appears to be making changes.

a close up of text on a white background: © Flatiron Books/Los Angeles Times/TNS "American Dirt" be Jeanin Cummins

A group of Latinx activists met on Monday with officials at Macmillan, the international parent company of Flatiron Books, which published “American Dirt,” to deliberate steps the publisher could take to increase Latino representation in the industry.

After the meeting, #DignidadLiteraria and Presente.org, an online Latinx organizing group, released a statement detailing the “unprecedented commitments” Macmillan made after the two-hour meeting.

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Kleindienst said the outrage surrounding American Dirt is much larger than other controversial books the store has promoted. Green Apple Books, a local bookstore chain in San Francisco, employed a different tactic, displaying works by Latinx authors next to American Dirt .

According to Bowles, Macmillan (Flatiron Books, which published " American Dirt ," is a division of Macmillan) has agreed to commit to expanding Latinx representation in its staff and with the book titles it will publish . He added that Macmillan will devise an action plan to meet these goals within 90 days

According to the release, the publisher made commitments to “substantially increasing Latinx representation across Macmillan, including authors, titles, staff and its overall literary ecosystem” and “developing an action plan to address these objectives within 90 days.” Macmillan also said it would “regroup within 30 days with #DignidadLiteraria and other Latinx groups to assess progress.”

This week, #DignidadLiteraria and its allies also will be organizing action forums in several cities across the country, including one Thursday at Culver City’s Antioch University. The purpose of these panels is “to continue the conversation on Latinos and the publishing industry,” said Roberto Lovato, a writer and co-founder of the hashtag and group spawned by the outcry.

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American Dirt , the high-octane story of a Mexican mother who crosses into the US with her son, was published this week. It was acquired for a seven-figure sum by She declined, saying that instead she would be compiling a list of books “by authentic Latinx authors ” to make available to her community.

' American Dirt ' Publisher Cancels Author Tour After Threats. In a statement, Bob Miller, the president of Flatiron Books, said the publisher is proud to have published American Dirt , and was "therefore surprised by the anger that has emerged from members of the Latinx and publishing

Flatiron Books and Macmillan did not immediately respond to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment.

Cummins’ migrant tale “American Dirt” sparked a raging storm of controversy weeks ago. Published on Jan. 21, the book has been accused by critics of being a harmful act of cultural appropriation, riddled with cultural inaccuracies and stereotypes about Mexico and the struggles of migrants. It inspired snarky parodies on Twitter and spurred discussions about how far the publishing industry still had to go to represent the diversity of the Latino experience.

Still, the novel was warmly received by prominent notables, including Stephen King, John Grisham and Sandra Cisneros, who reaffirmed her support of the book in an exclusive interview last week.

Among the meeting attendees were Bob Miller and Don Weisberg, presidents of Flatiron Books and Macmillan, respectively; Amy Einhorn, the editor of “American Dirt”; representatives of Oprah Winfrey; and authors and #DignidadLiteraria founders David Bowles and Myriam Gurba. Gurba’s negative review of the book became the catalyst of the controversy.

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The Latinx authors behind #DignidadLiteraria, a movement to increase Latinx representation in literature, and Presente.org, a group focused on amplifying Latinx voices and cultures have won what they describe as an “unprecedented commitment” from Macmillan USA, whose imprint Flatiron Books

Flatiron Books, publisher of the controversial new novel “ American Dirt ,” has canceled the remainder of author Jeanine Cummins' book tour after what it We join with those in the Latinx community and others who have spoken out against such violence." Flatiron will replace the remainder of the book

#DignidadLiteraria is “a network of committed Latinx authors formed to combat the invisibility of Latinx authors, editors, and executives in the U.S. publishing industry and the dearth of Latinx literature on the shelves of America’s bookstores and libraries,” according to its founders.

It’s also a movement fueled by the publishing world’s lack of representation. Latinos are the largest minority voting group in the U.S. and the largest nonwhite demographic, but in 2018 they made up only 3% of the publishing workforce, according to a Publishers Weekly study from last year.

Though Bowles called the commitments “a clear victory” in a video posted on Twitter, #DignidadLiteraria emphasized that the publishing world had a long way to go, urged government officials to investigate the “homogeneity” of the industry and encouraged the public to demand more Latinx voices in books.

Monday’s announcement “is just the first step in what must ultimately be a sea change in publishing,” the group said in the statement. “This campaign is not simply about Flatiron Books, or Macmillan USA. It’s about seeking change that reverberates through the entire industry so the shelves of U.S. bookstores and libraries reflect its people.”

Now that Latinos have the publishing world’s attention, Lovato believes that the public is “watching the beginning of the end of the folkloric industrial complex in Latino literature.”

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