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Sheltering at Home with American Dirt and Myriam Gurba

This self-isolation thing is getting old, but at least I’m catching up on my reading. After finishing American Dirt, I can definitely say it lives up to its reputation as a fast-paced read — almost as thrilling as Myriam Gurba’s blistering critique, which left me as breathless as the first five pages of the book she excoriates.

After reading her now famously solicited and rejected Ms. review and the comments she made both before and after submitting it, I can’t help thinking:

Does this woman have a serious chip on her shoulder, or what?

She starts one harangue by offering the following anecdote:

“When I tell gringos that my Mexican grandfather worked as a publicist, the news silences them. Shocked facial expressions follow suit. Their heads look ready to explode and I can tell they’re thinking, ‘In Mexico there are PUBLICISTS?’ I wryly grin at these fulanos and let my smile speak on my behalf. It answers: ‘Yes, bitch, in Mexico there are things to publicize such as our own fucking opinions about YOU.’”

Well, Myriam, this is one gringa bitch who wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. OF COURSE there are publicists in Mexico — like flies on caca, they are EVERYWHERE, duh!

And speaking of caca, Myriam likes to use colorful language, such as “obra de caca” or “work of shit,” which is how she refers to American Dirt while accusing its author of: “A. Appropriating genius works by people of color, B. Slapping a coat of mayonesa on them to make palatable to taste buds estados-unidenses, C. Repackaging them for mass racially ‘colorblind’ consumption.”


What “genius works” has Jeanine Cummins specifically appropriated? While she refers to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and makes use of its central theme (love as disease), authors of all stripes are guilty of that kind of appropriation. I certainly am — maybe there’s help for me out there somewhere, a literary Appropriators Anonymous meeting I could attend.

Cummins also thanks a number of writers in her acknowledgments and suggests that her readers check out their work “if you want to learn more about Mexico and the realities of compulsory migration.” Is Myriam suggesting that Cummins somehow “repackaged” these authors’ works? If so, A. Why would she draw attention to them at all? And B. Where are the lawyers?

Confused? Offended? Brace yourselves — I haven’t even gotten to the actual review.



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