Flatiron Books president and publisher Bob Miller addressed the “backlash” against Jeanine Cummins’ AMERICAN DIRT in a letter Wednesday afternoon cancelling her book tour due to “our concerns about safety.” He notes, “Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety.” The cancellation looks to be immediate, starting with tonight’s planned event at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA, which the store now lists as cancelled.
Instead, they “will be organizing a series of townhall 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.”
At the same time, Miller acknowledges the house’s mistakes in bringing the book to market:
“The discussion around this book has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation, both in the books we publish and in the teams that work on them. We are committed to finding new ways to address these issues and the specific publishing choices underlying this publication, and feel an obligation to our colleagues, readers, and authors alike. On a more specific scale we made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out this book. We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the migrant experience; we should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland; we should not have had a centerpiece at our bookseller dinner last May that replicated the book jacket so tastelessly. We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”
Going forward, “Simply put, we wish to listen, learn and do better.” At the same time, “that also must include a two-way dialogue characterized by respect…. We are saddened that a work of fiction that was well-intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor. While there are valid criticisms around our promotion of this book that is no excuse for the fact that in some cases there have been threats of physical violence.” Miller concludes, “We believe that this provides an opportunity to come together and unearth difficult truths to help us move forward as a community.”
Meanwhile, as we first suggested in our Next Week’s Bestsellers posts, AMERICAN DIRT was still the No. 1 fiction title for its opening week on sale — moving approximately 49,000 hardcovers according to NPD Bookscan, and almost as many ebooks and digital audios according to estimates from BookStat.com.