Monday, February 10, 2020
From the TRiP Wire Opinion Desk
(TRiP Wire welcomes readers to submit opinion pieces for publication)
A funny thing happened today when I went looking up the phrase "The Emperor has no clothes". The search (which was totally unrelated to writing of this article) led me to this website in the picture above (I'll include the link at the bottom of this piece). It was funny because, as you can see, the meaning refers to people being "afraid to criticize something or someone because the perceived wisdom of the masses is that the thing or person is good or important."
Jeanine Cummins' book, "American Dirt" is very likely not the 'Masterful" work of literature that Sandra Cisneros claims it is. But because of all the online criticism and media frenzy about the book, it's now a New York Time's Best Seller, and it's #1 this week on the Amazon Charts. Nice job, activists. You made sure this silly little book made it huge when, on its own, it probably would barely have caused a ripple in the literary world. (In other words, this book has no clothes...or a jacket...like the emperor in the phrase above...)
And a whole lot of people are going to benefit from this. A lot of people that you probably didn't want to benefit. Like Cummins, the publisher of the book, and Cisneros, herself. I mean, she stuck to her guns on this. Backing the book 1000% despite all the fuss from Mexican Americans and other Latinos condemning it.
I heard an interview she did on NPR where she sounded so combative, that I thought, damn is this because she refuses to acknowledge an error in judgement on her part? Or is she positioning herself for some future purpose, some kind of gain. Very Machiavellian, Sandra. Nice.
I mean, she even went all passive-aggressive about the Latino critics, essentially saying that they should shut up and read the book, and "if you don't like it" do some introspection about what you are "really upset about" and write poetry. Write POETRY!? (Scratching my head...) Sounded to me like that was meant as a kick in the baby-making area of all the activists out there, who I guess in her mind, tend to be poets who are angry about a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with their oppressors. The publisher of the book will definitely keep this little Mexican American token girl in their pile of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BOOK DEALS. Fo' sho'. Bravo, Sandra!
Full disclosure, I have not read the book. I tried, but I couldn't get past the first chapter. It's boring a.f. I don't know how Oprah said she was mesmerized from the first word her eyeballs fell on when she opened the book. What kind of trash have you been reading, girl? To hear her say it, it was the most captivating, enthralling story that she just couldn't put down.
Really? It was that good, Oprah? Or were you saying that because you have some deal, some bargain to live up to with the publishers and their industry. After all, you are running an empire, so I get it. It's business, baby. Truly. I'm not being facetious. Business is business. But maybe I see now why some folks on the brown side of the scale saw this reception and said, wait a minute. Something smells fishy a.f. And it's not the stink-filled shirt on my wet back, you know, since I just swam across the slimy Rio Grande River from Mejico.
I'll be honest (to my fellow brownies' scorn) I didn't buy into that whole story of appropriation and cultural insensitivity...at first. But then I read (tried really hard--forced myself to complete) the first chapter. Only then was I able to see their point. Not because of the appropriation argument, but because of the "really BAD writing" criticism of the book. It's just some cheesy writing. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it gives hope to many wannabe bestsellers to write without worrying about being great at it, and bad because it only reinforces the critics' argument against the book.
I think I have digressed a bit.
The point is this, the major publishers are not interested in hearing real stories of Mexican and Latino immigrants by Mexican and Latino immigrants. In that sense, Cisneros had a point in her interview, saying that Cummins could probably reach an audience (White people) that neither she, nor other authors of color can. Why? I guess because Cummins is mostly White. (She has about a plantain-peel's worth of Puerto Rican in her blood, as I understand).
BUUUT. If these a-holes in the major leagues of the publishing industry would give us a chance, give us a 7 figure book deal, we'd write kick-ass books that would take us 7 years to accomplish. 7 figures pays for barbecues and cerveza for 7 years easy! (Yes, I'm including myself here. I'm author... duuuh, I no' how to writ good-o.)
I guess what I'm saying is, yes the publishers still haven't opened the door to us. God knows we have been banging on their doors, and walls, and windows hard as hell for decades. They just keep ignoring us like we're Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on a Saturday morning. But one person who sure is going to have some sweet deals coming out of this is Sandra Cisneros for defending the book to the cost of many of her audience walking out on her. But perhaps it is a master strategy to finally break into the White reader zone and become bankable to the major publishers, who in turn, will give her a nice multiple-figure deal. Maybe she's not the hero we wanted, but the one we deserve...?
Ps. BTW, here's my book. Put your money where your activism is. Support a colored's writing career. I bet you a 7-figure book deal that my book right here opens in a much more dramatic fashion and grabs you much better than American Dirt. Just an unbiased opinion. ;)
Gabriel H. Sanchez is an author, poet, actor, editor, and publisher from the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, on the border with Mexico. Gabriel is the author of "Once Upon a Bad Hombre," "The X Series," "The Martian Ones: Tales of Human Folly," and "The Fluid Chicano." You can read more about him and his other projects at gabrielhugo.com or on his Facebook page: @gabrielhugoauthor.
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