"American Dirt is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list," writes Angeline Rodriguez, concerning the novel whose celebrity endorsements and success was brute-forced by a marketing campaign and completely immune to the backlash it received as a white fantasy of latino life. "It was never going to be anything less."
The massive institutional support behind the book essentially guarantees it. From the moment the novel sold for a much-touted seven figures in a nine-way auction, the hit-making machinery was set into motion. A large advance by itself won’t ensure a blockbuster, but it often catalyzes the kind of relentless promotional campaign that can secure accolades from publishing juggernauts like Stephen King and Don Winslow, a movie deal with Clint Eastwood’s production company and nonstop coverage in virtually every major outlet.
Even when that high-profile coverage is negative, it proves that for a book of American Dirt’s profile, there’s no such thing as bad press. Parul Sehgal’s unequivocal pan of the novel and its “mauling of the English language” is just one of nearly a dozen separate hits in the paper of record, but it certainly didn’t prevent Cummins from landing the holy grail of book endorsements, an Oprah’s Book Club pick, shortly thereafter.