Jeanine Cummins (born December 6, 1974) is an American author. She has written four books: a memoir titled A Rip in Heaven and three novels, The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch, and American Dirt.
Cummins was born in Rota, Spain, where her father, Gene, was stationed as a member of the US Navy. Her mother, Kay, was a nurse. Cummins spent her childhood in Gaithersburg, Maryland and attended Towson University, where she majored in English and communications. In 1993 Cummins was a finalist in the Rose of Tralee festival, an international event that is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world; at each festival in Tralee, Ireland, a woman is crowned the Rose. After university she spent two years working as a bartender in Belfast, Northern Ireland, before moving back to the United States in 1997 and beginning work at Penguin in New York City. She worked in the publishing industry for 10 years.Her 2004 memoir, A Rip in Heaven, focuses on the attempted murder of her brother, Tom, and the murder of two of her cousins on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri, when Cummins was 16. She declined offers for film rights to the book.Her next two novels explore Irish history. The Outside Boy (2010) is about Pavee travellers. The Crooked Branch (2013) is about the Great Famine of Ireland. These books will be published for the first time in Ireland in 2020.Cummins' 2020 novel, American Dirt, tells the story of a mother and bookstore owner in Acapulco, Mexico, who attempts to escape to the United States with her son after their family is killed by a drug cartel. In 2018 the book was sold to Flatiron after a three-day bidding war between nine publishers that resulted in a seven-figure deal. From 2018 until its publication in January 2020, the book was heavily marketed, receiving many positive reviews and the coveted book release day endorsement by Oprah Winfrey as the 83rd book chosen for Oprah's Book Club. However, approximately one month prior to release of the book, a negative review from Latina author Myriam Gurba was published in Tropics of Meta. Then, a week before release of the book, a string of critical reviews was published, including a review in the New York Times. In these reviews and letter signed by 142 writers, Cummins is accused of exploitation and inaccuracy in her portrayals of both Mexicans and the migrant experience. Some also claimed that Cummins had previously identified as white but re-branded herself as Latinx with the publication of the book, pointing to a line in a 2015 New York Times op-ed in which Cummins stated "I am white." Most did not refer to the entire statement in the op-ed, however, which was about the murder of Cummins's cousins by a group of three black and one white men and included the line "I am white. The grandmother I shared with Julie and Robin was Puerto Rican, and their father is half Lebanese. But in every practical way, my family is mostly white." The controversy around Jeanine's book was used to launch "#DignidadLiteraria" to highlight and address the lack of diversity in the U.S. publishing industry.On January 30, 2020 Cummins' book tour was cancelled, "Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety," wrote Flatiron Books' President Bob Miller. On February 10, 2020 in a meeting with Dignidad Literaria, Flatiron Books' President Miller admitted no death threats for Jeanine and reiterated Flatiron Books' January statement which described "specific threats to booksellers and the author" was still accurate. On the Oprah's Book Club show on March 6, 2020, the publisher explained that while no death threats were received, other threats were made against Cummins, against booksellers hosting her, and against moderators participating in the events.Cummins has indicated that her next book might be set in Puerto Rico.
Family and heritage
Jeanine Cummins identifies as both white and Latina, stating in a December 2015 New York Times opinion piece: "I still don't want to write about race. What I mean is, I really don't want to write about race... I am white." Additionally, her grandmother was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and in an interview with Shelf Awareness Cummins stated: "I'm Latinx." She only publicly identified as Latina during press for American Dirt. Her husband is from Ireland and was an undocumented immigrant in the US for 10 years. She has two daughters and has been a foster parent. Her cousin, Julie, inspired her to write.'
A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder and Its Aftermath (Berkley, 2004), ISBN 978-0451210531
The Outside Boy (Berkley, 2010), ISBN 978-0451229489
The Crooked Branch (Berkley, 2013), ISBN 978-0451239242
American Dirt (Flatiron, 2020), ISBN 978-1250209764References