If you’ve been online in the past few months, you’ve probably seen ads for American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins’ heavily promoted new novel about Mexican-American immigration. The book was loftily blurbed as “a Grapes of Wrath for our times” and sold for a seven-figure advance. Oprah picked it for her book club, it’s been included on numerous lists of the most anticipated books of the year, and the film rights have already been secured.

But when reviews started coming out late last week, the backlash was swift and severe. “This peculiar book flounders and fails,” wrote Parul Sehgal in the New York Times. In a funny, fiery takedown, Chicana writer Myriam Gurba called it “fake-ass social justice literature,” complete with such tired stereotypes as “the Latin lover, the suffering mother,…

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