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‘American Dirt’ Publisher Cancels Author’s Tour After Threats

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  • American Dirt, a novel about a mother and son migrating from Mexico to the United States, has received backlash because the author, Jeanine Cummins, is not Mexican or an immigrant and is mostly white.
  • Critics believe this was not Cummins’ story to write and called her depiction of immigration inaccurate, stereotypical, and irresponsible.
  • Oprah Winfrey was slammed after selecting the novel for her book club, with many urging her to rescind that choice. 
  • Meanwhile, Cummins’ publishers canceled her book tour over threats to her safety.

Book Tour Canceled

The publishers of the controversial new novel American Dirt have canceled the book tour over concerns for the author’s safety.

Since the book hit shelves on January 21, it has started a large debate. The story depicts a fictional mother fleeing Mexico with her son after her husband is killed by drug cartel violence, hoping for a new life in the United States. The author, Jeanine Cummins, is not Mexican, not an immigrant, and is mostly white. Because of that, many critics believed that this was not Cummins’ story to tell.

Flatiron Books, which published American Dirt, released a statement on Wednesday addressing the backlash.

“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,” it wrote. 

In addition to backlash from critics, authors, and readers, Flatiron Books said there were also threats of violence made.

“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,” the statement added.

“Unfortunately, our concerns about safety have led us to the difficult decision to cancel the book tour. Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety,” it continued. Now, instead of a full tour, the book publisher says it will host town hall meetings where Cummins can talk about criticism of her novel.

Controversies Surrounding American Dirt Author

The conversations around Cummin’s whiteness have contained nuance. In a story she wrote for The New York Times back in 2015, Cummins says that she is white. After noting that her grandmother is Puerto Rican, she continues to say that “in every practical way, my family is mostly white.”

In an interview promoting American Dirt, however, she said that she is Latinx. She also added that she felt unqualified to write the story because it is not her lived experience. In her author’s note, she also said that she “wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.”

That note also included a segment about her husband being an undocumented immigrant. While this is true, Cummins’ husband came to the U.S. from Ireland, which is a different migration experience than that of someone crossing the border between Mexico and the U.S.

In their statement, Flatiron Books admitted that it regretted the methods it used rolling the book out, including hailing it as a definitive migration story and calling Cummins’ husband undocumented without specifying where he came from. 

Oprah Receives Backlash for Book Club Selection

American Dirt entered 2020 as one of the most anticipated books of the year. Before it was even published, it was being optioned for film adaptations. On the day it was released, Oprah Winfrey announced it was the newest selection in her book club. Her recommendation of the book is what brought the controversial subject matter to light. 

“This story changed the way I see what it means to be a migrant in a whole new way,” Winfrey wrote in an Instagram post announcing American Dirt’s selection.

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Celebrities like Salma Hayek and Gina Rodriguez posted that they were excited that American Dirt was chosen for Winfrey’s book club. Internet users then quickly criticized Winfrey for choosing it, as well as Hayek and Rodriguez for promoting it. The two actresses later removed their social media posts touting the novel, and Hayek later apologized for promoting a book she had not read. 

After Winfrey put it on her book club’s list, several Latinx authors and writers shared their thoughts on American Dirt. Esmeralda Bermudez, an immigrant whose family came on foot to the U.S. from El Salvador, wrote about her take on the book in the Los Angeles Times.

“What made me cringe was immediately realizing that this book was not written for people like me, for immigrants,” she wrote. “It was written for everyone else — to enchant them, take them on a wild border-crossing ride, make them feel all fuzzy inside about the immigrant plight. All, unfortunately, with the worst stereotypes, fixations and inaccuracies about Latinos.”

Many also started sharing a review written by Myriam Gurba back in December, after she read an advance copy of American Dirt.  She said that in the novel, Cummins appropriated works by people of color, slapped a coat of mayonnaise on the story to make it more palatable to American tastebuds, and repackaged the story for colorblind consumption.

Others also believed some of the promotion of the novel was insensitive. Cummins shared a photo of her getting nail art of barbed wire modeled after the book’s cover, which many thought was in poor taste. 

Others felt similarly about a centerpiece used at a dinner party celebrating the book, where flowers were wrapped in barbed wire. 

Some, however, defended American Dirt. Sandra Cisneros the Mexican-American author of the acclaimed book The House on Mango Street spoke to NPR about the book and said it could reach an audience: “who maybe is undecided about issues at the border.”

“It’s going to be someone who wants to be entertained, and the story is going to enter like a Trojan horse and change minds,” she continued. “And it’s going to change the minds that, perhaps, I can’t change.”

Oprah Aims to Start an Open Dialogue

Still, since this book started such a strong debate, Winfrey took to Instagram to address the concerns on Monday. 

“I’ve spent the last few days listening to members of the Latinx community to get a greater understanding of their concerns,”  Winfrey said in a video posted to her book club’s account. “And I hear them, I do. So, what I want to do is bring people together from all sides to talk about this book and who gets to publish what stories.” 

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Redirecting the conversation of the book was not enough for everyone, though. 122 authors signed a letter posted to LitHub on Wednesday asking her to reconsider recommending it. 

“This letter is not written to attack Cummins, a fellow writer whose intentions we can’t know. But good intentions do not make good literature, particularly not when the execution is so faulty, and the outcome so harmful,” the letter said.

“In a time of widespread misinformation, fearmongering, and white-supremacist propaganda related to immigration and to our border, in a time when adults and children are dying in US immigration cages, we believe that a novel blundering so badly in its depiction of marginalized, oppressed people should not be lifted up,” it continued. 

The book is still linked in the bio of Oprah’s Book Club’s Instagram, with the reading schedule for it also posted.  

See what others are saying: (Vox) (Los Angeles Times) (NPR)

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Britney Spears Asks For Privacy After Fans Called Cops to Conduct a Wellness Check on Her

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Fans said they were concerned after the singer deleted her Instagram account.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated to include a statement from Britney Spears


Fans Call 911

Britney Spears said her fans “went a little too far” after some called the police to conduct a wellness check on her. 

The fans, many fueled by online conspiracy theories, were concerned about Spears because she deleted her Instagram account. While this is something the singer has done multiple times in the past, her fans thought she had left secret signals in her last post suggesting she needed help.

Some even posted videos of them calling emergency services on TikTok, a platform that is full of conspiracy videos about Spears. 

“I love and adore my fans but this time things went a little too far and my privacy was invaded,” Spears wrote in a statement on Thursday, citing “prank phone calls” that were made to police.

According to Spears, officers did not enter her home because once they got to her gate, they “quickly realized there was no issue and left immediately.”

“This felt like I was being gaslit and bullied once the incident made it to the news and being portrayed once again in a poor and unfair light by the media,” Spears continued. “During this time in my life, I truly hope the public and my fans who I care so much about can respect my privacy moving forward.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Page Six that the department “did get calls into our dispatch” but added there was no reason to believe that Spears was “in any kind of harm or any kind of danger.”

That spokesperson declined to say if officials contacted Spears or conducted a wellness check, citing privacy and public trust issues.

The Prominence of Britney Spears Conspiracies 

Just over a year has passed since Spears was freed from a highly restrictive conservatorship that controlled her life and finances for 13 years. Throughout the conservatorship, fans tried to use the pop icon’s social media to pick up clues that she was secretly struggling. She did not publicly speak about the conservatorship until the summer of 2021. 

Now that she has her freedom, fans are still reading heavily into her posts. Some believe there are hidden messages in her captions and in the gestures she does while dancing. Others think she is dead, missing, or hiding and that a body double is being used in her posts. Some are so concerned that they are coordinating a mass effort to pressure the Los Angeles Times into investigating Spears’ whereabouts and safety. 

In the last several years, many have reflected on Spears’ early days in the spotlight and the cruel ways she was harassed and targeted by paparazzi, news outlets, and culture at large. Often the punchline to a joke throughout the 2000s, many now sympathize with Spears, who was forced to endure heavy public scrutiny at a young age. Documentaries like “Framing Britney Spears” prompted many to see Spears as a victim of abusive media tactics, not the “crazy” woman tabloids painted her to be. 

Many are now concerned that fans are only going to subject Spears to a new onslaught of harassment by calling the police to her house. Even if the conspiracy theories are technically well-intentioned and often come from a place of concern, some believe they will jumpstart a media frenzy that could harm Spears’ mental well-being.

See what others are saying: (Page Six) (Jezebel) (TMZ)

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Razzies Apologize For Nominating 12-Year-Old, Adopt Age Rules For Future Nominations

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The group’s founder said the Razzies regret “any hurt” the young actress may have “experienced as a result of our choices.”


Razzies Face Backlash

The Razzie Awards revoked its “insensitive” nomination of 12-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrong and added new guidelines banning child performers from being nominated in the future. 

The Razzies, which award the year’s worst movies, included Armstrong in its “Worst Actress” lineup for her role in “Firestarter.” Bryce Dallas Howard, Diane Keaton, Kaya Scodelario, and Alicia Silverstone were also nominated in the category.

Armstrong starred alongside Zac Efron in “Firestarter,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The picture received a 10% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. 

While the film was broadly panned, many thought it was a bridge too far to nominate a child for a bad acting award.

“The Razzies are already mean-spirited & classless, but to nominate a kid is just repulsive & wrong,” child star Julian Hilliard, best known for his work in “WandaVision,” tweeted. “Why put a kid at risk of increased bullying or worse? Be better.”

Actor and podcast host Brandon Hardesty said the nomination was “completely ignorant and cynical.”

“They have no clue what this can do to a child actress who probably considered her starring role in FIRESTARTER as a high point in her life,” he wrote. 

“That girl was the best part of that mess of a movie,” film critic Shannon McGrew tweeted. “And on top of that, no kid should ever be nominated for an award that punches down on them.”

Nomination Revoked

Razzies founder John Wilson addressed the backlash in a statement to the press on Wednesday, calling the criticism “valid.”

“Sometimes, you do things without thinking, Then you are called out for it. Then you get it,” Wilson said. “It’s why the Razzies were created in the first place.”

“We have removed Armstrong’s name from the Final Ballot that our members will cast next month,” he continued. “We also believe a public apology is owed Ms. Armstrong, and wish to say we regret any hurt she experienced as a result of our choices.”

In addition to removing Armstrong’s nomination, The Razzies is now adopting “a Voting Guideline precluding any performer or film-maker under 18 years of age from being considered” for awards. 

“Since our motto is ‘Own Your Bad,’ we realize that we ourselves must also live up to it,” the statement closed.

While Armstrong will be the last child to nab a Razzie nomination, she was far from the first. Jake Lloyd made the list for his turn as young Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” Gary Coleman and Macaulay Culkin also got nominations as teenagers.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (People)

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SeatGeek CEO Calls to Break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation in Senate Hearing Following Taylor Swift Debacle

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“A lack of robust competition in our industry meaningfully stunts innovation, and consumers are who suffer,” Jack Groetzinger said.


Monopoly Concerns

Two months after technical difficulties blocked countless Taylor Swift fans from snagging seats to her tour, a bipartisan group of Senators held a hearing to re-examine the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

The two entertainment giants merged in 2010. Jack Groetzinger, the CEO of the rival ticket-selling platform SeatGeek, said during Tuesday’s hearing that the two need to be broken up to benefit consumers. 

“One, a lack of robust competition in our industry meaningfully stunts innovation, and consumers are who suffer,” he said. “Two, venues fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster, and three, the only way to restore competition in this industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.” 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) echoed concerns about the lack of competition, arguing that Live Nation is the “definition of monopoly.”

“Live Nation is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten, because people just fall in line,” she said. 

The Eras Tour Debacle

Ticketmaster has long been accused of price-gouging and complicating the ticket-buying process. Those issues made international headlines in November during the presale for Swift’s highly anticipated Era’s Tour. 

Millions of fans who attempted to enter Ticketmaster’s virtual queue walked away empty-handed after experiencing crashes, price inflation, and a myriad of other issues. 

According to Ticketmaster, the incredibly high demand, coupled with an onslaught of bot attacks, forced the platform to slow sales down. After the company delayed sales in certain cities and canceled the general sale altogether, Swift called the ordeal “excruciating.”

“We asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could,” she wrote on Instagram in November. 

The controversy prompted many to accuse Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, of holding a monopoly over the concert and live events industry. The U.S. Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into the entertainment giant. 

Ticketmaster Takes Heat

Ticketmaster has repeatedly tried to blame a number of factors for the failed Swift presale, even at one point suggesting the sale was too popular because the “Anti-Hero” singer waited so long to tour. 

“May I suggest, respectfully, that Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m the problem, it’s me,’” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said during the hearing. 

Still, the company continued to point the finger at record-breaking bot attacks. 

“We knew bots would attack at onsale and planned accordingly. We were then hit with three times the amount of bot traffic that we’d ever experienced,” Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold said on Capitol Hill. 

“The attack requires [us] to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience we deeply regret. We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Miss Swift, we need to do better and we will do better,” he continued. 

Others present at the hearing were not happy with Live Nation’s bot defense. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said that she has worked with companies in a variety of industries that deal with bots without these issues. 

“You know what, they get bot attacks every single day by the thousands. By the thousands,” she said. “And they have figured it out, but you guys haven’t? This is unbelievable.” 

“You can’t blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift,” JAM Productions CEO Jerry Mickelson added. “There’s more to that story that you’re not hearing.”

According to Mickelson, Ticketmaster can actually stand to benefit from glitchy sales on its platform. 

“The process, when it’s slowed down, increases the money that Ticketmaster makes because they make money on fees and as the ticket prices go up due to dynamically priced tickets, Ticketmaster makes more off that,” he claimed. “So it’s to their advantage to slow the process down.”

Outrage against Ticketmaster has become so widespread that Sen. Blumenthal said the company was responsible for “an absolutely stunning achievement.” 

“You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”

See what others are saying: (Axios) (USA Today) (New York Times)

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