Jeanine Cummins
Jeanine Cummins Joe Kennedy

Jeanine Cummins, the author of the new novel American Dirt, will not be appearing at Powell’s Books this Friday as planned. Earlier today, her publisher, Flatiron Books, announced that it was canceling her entire book tour, citing concerns for Cummins’ safety.

In a statement sent out by Flatiron’s publisher and president Bob Miller, the decision was made because of “specific threats to booksellers and the author" that led them to "believe there exists real peril to their safety.”

Cummins and Flatiron have been both celebrated and pilloried for American Dirt. The publishing house bought the book for seven figures and it has since earned heaps of praise from writers like Stephen King and Sandra Cisneros. Along the way it was tapped as an Oprah Book Club pick and is, as of this writing, the #2 best seller at Powell’s. Hollywood has also come calling with Imperative Entertainment purchasing the novel's film rights.

At the same time, the book—which follows a mother and her son as they try to cross the border from Mexico into the US—and its author have been roughed up by critics and Latinx writers for what they see as a simplistic and potentially problematic portrayal of the immigrant crisis.

Critic and author David Bowles took to Twitter to comment that American Dirt "was DELIBERATELY written with White folks in mind, telling [a] stereotypical, inaccurate, melodramatic story in a way palatable to that readership (presumably so it would be a bestseller),” and Shannon Melero, reporting from a book event for Cummins in New York City over at Jezebel, had this to say:

There is no sense throughout the book that Cummins is familiar at all with the landscape of Mexico, outside the names of towns. At times it reads as if she was purposely vague on the description of a neighborhood so that the reader could imagine they were anywhere else. But the lack of specificity is precisely why such a book appeals so massively to a mainstream white gaze: they can put themselves in the story and imagine they are practicing a type of empathy, when in fact they’re just perpetuating erasure.

Cummins and Flatiron haven't helped their cause much with reports that a launch event for the novel featured barbed wire centerpieces, and this picture the author posted to Twitter of the nail art she received that looked just like her book's cover.

According to the LA Times, Flatiron Books is doing what they can to smooth over this controversy with plans for "a series of town hall meetings, where Jeanine will be joined by some of the groups who have raised objections to the book. We believe that this provides an opportunity to come together and unearth difficult truths to help us move forward as a community.” Whether or not one of those events will happen in Portland remains to be seen.