Left Bank Books is no stranger to controversy. No stranger to protest. This store was born out of protest and is made of people who have fought to be where we are and who we are. It's not always easy and it's sometimes not popular, but the common thread always is the same as our tagline - literacy and justice for all. We are a mission based bookstore, and that mission guides what we do.
We scheduled an event with Jeanine Cummins to discuss her new novel, American Dirt. In our minds, we were promoting a topical book written by someone who has deep St. Louis connections. It's a gripping story about a woman and her child fleeing violence by trying to get to America. Literacy and justice.
We sincerely believed it would be an opportunity to have an overdue public conversation about the deplorable actions of our country towards people at the border.
We sincerely believed Cummins novel was as good a starting place as any for folks who have not been fully aware of the issues and suffering. That the book could put a human face on the headlines.
When we announced the event, some in our community pushed back. Why, they asked, would we promote a white author who writes about a Latinx experience? And where are the Latinx voices? Where are those authors? In an attempt to find a middle ground, we invited members of the community to join Jeanine in a public conversation.
Some in the community pushed back harder. Posts on social media, calls to our venue partners and others were made insisting we cancel the event.
This felt familiar. It felt like the struggle we've been a part of for years aimed back at us. It hurt. And it felt like a challenge to do better.
Although the time line of this whole process has unfurled in a matter of a few very demanding days, we have taken pains to reflect on the best course of action. And that action is this:
We are listening. To everyone.
We are cancelling the event and will issue refunds to everyone who wants one.
Our mission remains the same, as does our humanity and membership in this community we love and fiercely defend.
We will continue to work to bring authors and stories to our city and hold space for conversations that support and expand the humanity of all.
We will continue to try to be mindful of our mission – Literacy and Justice for All.
We are grateful for the support of the community and aware that we earn that support one day at a time.
Your friends and neighbors at Left Bank Books
Sunday, January 26, 4pm
Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton
Left Bank Books presents bestselling memoirist of A Rip In Heaven, Jeanine Cummins, who will sign and discuss her new novel, American Dirt. For readers of There There but with the emotional punch of The Nightingale, American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.
If it’s only a better life you seek, seek it elsewhere...This path is only for people who have no choice, no other option, only violence and misery behind you. And your journey will grow even more treacherous from here. Everything is working against you. —American Dirt
Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward America, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the thousands of people trying to reach American dirt, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?
American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed when they finish reading it. It is a page-turner, it is a literary achievement, it is filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.