The Paris Review Appoints New Publisher, American Dirt Controversy Explained, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

The Paris Review Foundation has chosen Mona Simpson to serve as the magazine’s new publisher. The author of six critically acclaimed novels, Simpson first became involved at the Paris Review as a work-study student, and later served as the quarterly’s senior editor for five years. She succeeds Susannah Hunnewell, who died in June 2019. 

Slate explains the unfolding controversy surrounding Jeanine Cummins’s latest novel, American Dirt, which concerns a mother and son who flee Mexico for the United States. The book has been met with mixed reviews from the literary community, winning praise from authors such as Stephen King and Sandra Cisneros, while receiving several pans, including one from Parul Sehgal in the New York Times. Many writers have critiqued the novel for inconsistencies and errors in its descriptions of Mexico, and Cummins for cultural appropriation and stereotyping. The controversy has also resurfaced discussions of inequity, appropriation, and racism in the broader publishing industry.

Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey has selected American Dirt as the next title for her book club. It is the third title selected in the new iteration of Oprah’s Book Club, following The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. (CBS This Morning)

Jennifer Mills considers the writer’s responsibility, in the face of a climate catastrophe like the Australian bushfires, to combat government campaigns that deny the connection between human emissions and climate change. The writer should do more than build empathy or inspire hope, she argues. Instead, “show us the seams of our own reality, and sharpen our minds against the false narratives that those in power seek to wield against us.” (Literary Hub)

Namwali Serpell offers a window into her research and writing process, sharing highlights from a Google Drive folder she used to keep track of material for her debut novel, The Old Drift. (Guernica)

Author María Sonia Cristoff and translator Katherine Silver discuss Cristoff’s novel Include Me Out, and the unique collaborative art of translation, with the Rumpus Book Club. 

Clare Beams revisits the writings of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, who served as a teaching assistant to Amos Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s father. Beams examines the gender dynamics that sidelined Peabody’s ideas during her time at Alcott’s Temple School for Children. (Millions)

Charles Yu features in the latest installment of the New York Times By the Book. He names the books on his nightstand, describes his ideal reading experience, and shares the books that got him hooked on speculative fiction.