When creators choose to profit on the trauma of children …

Fred Chong Rutherford
6 min readJan 23, 2020
From The Conversation “Breaking Up Families? America looks like a Dickens Novel.” | http://theconversation.com/breaking-up-families-america-looks-like-a-dickens-novel-98660

I find my fellow New Yorker Jeanine Cummins very frustrating.

She’s the latest author to join Oprah’s Book Club, for her book “American Dirt.” In the book, she tells a fictional story about the troubles facing a family from Mexico trapped in a life-or-death situation, that has to travel to the U.S. for safety and face our immigration system. Her book is being lauded. She’s a foster mom, with a good heart, and this work she’s created has reached the hearts of a lot of good Americans, people like Stephen King and Oprah and all sorts of folks.

It was this tweet, coupled with relooking at some writing she’s done and her interviews, that’s led me to this place of frustration …

I don’t understand how anyone who truly understands the suffering of immigrants can ever think that the barbed wire that hurts and kills so many people trying to escape from war, from crime, from violence, is beautiful. It’s clear she’s never suffered any of this herself, and has a limit to her empathy.

There’s an ugliness to all of this, hidden between the lines here, and it’s exemplified in this piece she wrote for the New York times from 2018.

“But even when it’s necessary, removing children from their parents causes acute distress. I witnessed that suffering. It lived in my home.

My older daughter began having nightmares that “the people” would take her away from us and give her to another family. She was inconsolable. “If it could happen to them,” she asked with the cleareyed logic of a 7-year-old, “why can’t it happen to us?”

I tried telling her that it happens only to parents who don’t, or can’t, take care of their children. It happens only when parents aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do.

It turns out she knew something I didn’t.

I’ve tried not to read the headlines about migrant children being separated from their parents. The stories of frantic parents and sobbing children are…

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