Cultural icon Oprah Winfrey chose the Tucson area as the setting for a much-hyped TV program about the controversial novel "American Dirt." The talk show host, along with author Jeanine Cummins, held a televised discussion about the book this afternoon.
About 250 people were asked to meet at the Harkins Theatres Arizona Pavilions 12, 5755 W. Arizona Pavilions Drive, early Thursday afternoon and directed to another location. Participants were asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement and banned from speaking about the event until after the show airs in March.
The discussion will be the next episode in Winfrey's new Apple TV+ series Oprah's Book Club, which features personal conversations with authors in front of a live audience.
The best-selling novel "American Dirt," published Jan. 21 by Macmillan Publishers, has attracted a frenzy of denunciations, especially after Winfrey named it her book club pick in January. The book has been widely criticized for having stereotypical depictions of Mexican migrants, and raised questions about cultural appropriation, diversity and representation in the publishing industry.
To address the outpouring of concerns from the Latinx community, Winfrey posted an Instagram video Jan. 26, in which she said, "What I want to do is bring people together from all sides to talk about this book, and who gets to publish what stories ... And I think it's going to allow us to open up the conversation in unexpected, and I really hope, meaningful ways."
On Wednesday, the Latinx group #DignidadLiteraria posted an open letter to Winfrey on the site Literary Hub calling for deeper conversations about "the continued underrepresentation of Latinx authors in publishing and in your highly influential book club." The letter mentioned the Tucson taping and reiterated the need for a private sit-down with Winfrey and their movement.
"We urge to you open your mind and heart to actual Latinos the way you have publicly declared you did to Jeanine's fictional characters," the letter reads.
Roberto Lovato, one of the signers of the letter, wrote on Twitter about not receiving an invitation to Winfrey's Tucson book taping.
People are starting to enter @Oprah's "all sides," completely staged #AmericanDirt spectacle for @AppleTV in Tucson. Though we were not invited & though we r interested in talking re industry, not spectacles, she will be hearing from #DignidadLiteraria. pic.twitter.com/7M5mZfZM86— Roberto Lovato (@robvato) February 13, 2020
The episode, which is set to debut in March, is the third installment of the series. The first two episodes were hour-long conversations with book club authors Ta-Nehisi Coates and Elizabeth Strout.