Hysteria over a white woman writing about Mexicans is dangerous

Ideas

Hysteria over a white woman writing about Mexicans is dangerous

If we put people off writing about experiences they haven’t had we’ll end up with nothing but novels about novelists

Jake Kerridge

This week sees the publication of American Dirt, a novel denounced as such a heinous example of cultural appropriation that I expect to see it being retailed as part of a two-for-one deal with DVDs of The Black and White Minstrel Show.

American Dirt is a thriller about a Mexican who makes an enemy of a drug cartel boss and attempts to flee to the US with her son, only to fall foul of the restrictions and other dangers that beset the thousands of undocumented migrants who attempt to gain entry to America. A strong plot is combined with bien-pensant politics: the ingredients for a snob-hit-cum-bestseller.

The book’s American publishers certainly thought so, awarding the author, Jeanine Cummins, a seven-figure contract. But Cummins is white: she can claim nothing closer to Mexican heritage than a Puerto Rican grandmother...

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.