Tuesday was the official release day of American Dirt, a novel written by Jeanine Cummins which has already been surrounded by controversy. The plot involves a middle-class Mexican mother and son who flee to the U.S. after their family was slaughtered by a cartel gang. (What an original idea.) It was chosen by Oprah as her next Book Club selection.
But wait there’s more, Cummins actually wrote this line: “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write [the novel]” and it’s already chronicled that she has made the pivot to being Puerto Rican after saying she has always identified as white. (Read the definitive take on this from author Myriam Gurba.)
Still, the book has gotten a lot of praise, being hailed as “Extraordinary,” a “great American novel,” and a ton of publicity. One author compared it to The Grapes of Wrath, despite the book’s seriously bad Mexican tropes.
So in response, writer John Paul “Juanpa” Brammer took to Twitter with the phrase “writing my Latino novel” to draft up his own mock-plot featuring some of the most ridiculous tropes and stereotypes about Latinos. Many others followed suit and the results are, well, you can see for yourself
writing my Latino novel: "We fled late in the night, or /la noche/ as Mami calls it. I'm always embarrassed when Mami says shit like that, but I forgive her because she's one of eleven kids and is from /el barrio./ Anyway it was late at night, and Yolanda Saldivar was chasing us-
— JP (@jpbrammer) January 21, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: “My Mami has prophetic dreams. On the eve of my birth, Mami said Walter Mercado came to her in un sueño. He laid a single peacock egg before her and chanted, ‘Sanababish.’ She ate the egg whole. Now the ducks in Kendall are not what they seem.” https://t.co/43sdHNMMW2
— Suzy Exposito (@HexPositive) January 22, 2020
writing my Latino novel: Mami looked at me with ojos that burned like a habanero or the sun in the tropics, where things are caliente. Our Goya can piggy bank was down to its last centavos.
That night we prayed to Don Francisco that he would pay la renta. https://t.co/Gko2Rrz71k
— aléxandros! (@bodega_gyro_ao) January 22, 2020
writing my latino novel: abuela greets me, the chancla hitting my skull like a kiss from my ancestors. "jaja," i laugh. i am like the cookie tin, i think, filled with secrets, filled with thread, unraveling. "a comer," abuela sings in her plaintive voz. "hay comida en la casa." https://t.co/8J1CDohbfr
— ɥɔuʎq pᴉʌɐp 🍒 (@soalexgoes) January 21, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: "I bidi bidi bom bom'd to la tienda for Bustelo y fresh coconut. Papi walked out on us when I was a kid; he took mami's records, our money, and our Spanish. Mami doesn't speak Spanish anymore, and I'm going to be pressed about it for 240 pages." https://t.co/0NhxpkKvCS
— Chris Gonzalez (@livesinpages) January 21, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: "I let the gringo unwrap me like a banana leaf. He resembles the conquistador who asked my ancestors the way east then stole their land. I let him plunder, spread my piernas like mayonesa. "Dame tu leche," he demands. He milks me, my language, mi lengua. https://t.co/q466bV0cl0
— 𝚑𝚒𝚜𝚙𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚌 𝚙𝚒𝚡𝚒𝚎 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚐𝚒𝚛𝚕 (@mathewrodriguez) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: “Bullets ring through the air. Mi aBuELa making arroz con pollo. I always watch Home Alone: Lost in New York when I’m sick. ‘Mijo, the volume is too high,’ she says in Spanish. More bullets. Merry Christmas ya filthy animal, he says. Feliz Navidad indeed” https://t.co/oU6gzdPEho
— Zoraida Córdova (@zlikeinzorro) January 21, 2020
writing my latino novel: Hey ~mamacita~, my neighbor Jesus calls as I sway down the street with my Mexican hips, which, like Shakira's, tell no ~mentiras~, Latin passion in my blood burning with ~el fuego~ of desire like a spicy jalapeño.
"'Sup, Papi," I answer, Mexicanly. https://t.co/FwIxHvjmBB
— baby yoda protection squad (@schweinsty) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel:
I stepped out of the shower (it was a bucket in there) and wrapped my wet hair in a tortilla like my ancestors did it. I’m still sore from the chancla after mami learned about my white boyfriend, pero Kyle says he loves my spicy family. https://t.co/gXQD219Q8J
— Alex Arriaga (@alexarriaga__) January 22, 2020
There is now a hashtag for it. Of course there is.
We’re wondering if there’s anyone who would assume these are actual stories and not realize they’re a joke—oh yeah, probably everyone who green-flagged American Dirt. Seriously, what’s the difference, as the first five pages of Cummins’ new novel show?