Cover of "America Dirt"
A portion of the cover of the novel “American Dirt.”

Warwick’s bookstore in La Jolla abruptly canceled an event earlier this week featuring the author of the  controversial novel “American Dirt,” which tells the fictional exodus of a Mexican mother to the United States after a narco-related shooting breaks out at a family party.

At the event, scheduled for last Monday morning, author Jeanine Cummins was scheduled to hold a discussion about her latest work and sign copies for attendees. 

However, the bookstore announced it was cancelling the event due to concern for the author’s safety. Media reports said as many as 13 book tour events have been canceled amid the growing controversy.

Online there has been a strong backlash over the book’s use of stereotypes to depict Mexico and immigrants. Concerns over cultural appropriation and insensitivity have also been voiced. 

Mexican-American writer Myriam Gurba, among the book’s first public critics, states that the book “fails to convey any Mexican sensibility.” Salvadoran author Roberto Lovato said the book’s account of the hardships faced by immigrants is handled “like they handle a Marvel comics movie.”

On Twitter, San Diego-based author Jean Guerrero accused the book of promoting misogyny, on top of negative racial tropes, through flirty interactions between a narco boss and the book’s main character. 

Many on social media have expressed interest in attending bookstore events for “American Dirt” to question the author’s experience and intentions in writing the book, leading to safety concerns and cancellations.

Despite the growing negative reception, the book was endorsed by literary figures such as Stephen King, Don Winslow and Sandra Cisneros. “American Dirt” is also the latest entry in Oprah Winfrey’s book club. 

Buzz for “American Dirt” began to build up after publisher Flatiron Books put up a seven-figure advance for the novel. The Los Angeles Times reports that the rights to the film adaptation have already been sold and the first print run totals 500,000 copies.

When inquired, a Warwick’s employee said there are no immediate plans to reschedule an event for the book.

Mario A. Cortez is a multimedia journalist working in the San Diego-Tijuana area.