Thursday April 2, 2020

Jeanine Cummins: ‘I worried that my privilege would make me blind to certain truths. I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it’

Jeanine Cummins’s novel American Dirt was heralded by other writers and the publishing industry alike, until a backlash about her ethnicity – and whether she was the right person to tell the story she did – nearly swallowed her whole. She stands by her work while acknowledging it has opened up a necessary conversation about who the gatekeepers are, in publishing and in life

Nadine O’Regan

Arts Editor and Columnist

16th February, 2020
Jeanine Cummins‘s novel documents the experience of migrants illegally entering the United States; critics says she is the wrong heritage to be its author. Picture: Heather Sten

‘The question of who is allowed to write what stories – that’s a conversation that in this country has been simmering for a very long time. And people have very strong opinions on both ends of that conversation. I was cognisant of it. I was fearful of it. That’s why it took me so long to write this book.”

From her home in New York, Jeanine Cummins is telling...

Subscribe from just €1 for the first month!

Exclusive offers:

All Digital Access + eReader



Unlimited Access for 1 Month

Then €19.99 a month after the offer period.

Get basic
*New subscribers only
You can cancel any time.



€149 For the 1st Year

Unlimited Access for 1 Year

You can cancel any time.




90 Day Pass

You can cancel any time.

Team Pass

Get a Business Account for you and your team

Share this post

Related Stories

Andrew Gimson profiles the men who have taken charge of what one called the ‘lonesomest’ place in the world

Andrew Lynch | 4 days ago

It was Catherine the Great who first saw the potential for Russia to become an influential musical nation while also establishing the country as a great and often brutal European power

Brendan Daly | 4 days ago

Liz Nugent’s novels bring outsiders and unhappy families into sharp focus, and her latest, Our Little Cruelties, tackles the last taboo of the ‘bad mother’ head on

Andrea Cleary | 4 days ago