Nearly a year since its publish date, Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt is still finding new audiences, having spent almost 50 weeks on Amazon’s best-seller list. While it was originally billed The Grapes of Wrath of our time, the book generated a wave of backlash in early 2020 for its inauthentic and insensitive portrayal of Mexicans and immigrants — among other reasons, including barbed wire fence centerpieces at a dinner party celebrating the book’s release.
Cummins, who has one Puerto Rican grandparent, received a seven-figure deal for American Dirt, which also landed on Oprah’s Book Club and garnered praise from several publications. This level of support isn’t the reality for most Latinx authors, who typically do not have the same opportunities to overcome institutional barriers. They are overlooked for not fitting into the publishing industry’s narrow definition of Latinidad. In those rare moments that Latinx authors, among other marginalized groups, do find success within traditional publishing, they are still not given the same roll-out or promotion.
While the publishing industry is slow to change even after the American Dirt controversy illustrated how archaic it is, we can do our part by supporting Latinx authors, who are using their own experiences to tell authentic stories about the many facets of their cultures. Many of these writers may not always get the attention they deserve, but that's not stopping them from telling our stories in nuanced ways, across a variety of genres. So, that you can get a start in picking up their titles, here’s a diverse array of books by Latinx authors worth checking out in 2021.