"Ultimately we did not end up moving forward with it as a book club selection,” a spokeswoman for Winfrey said. Russell's publisher, William Morrow, said in a statement that it was “disappointed by their decision but thrilled to see the incredible response from early readers.” It noted early reviews had been positive for “My Dark Vanessa,” which comes out next.
Winfrey’s dropping of the novel followed her highly controversial choice of Jeanine Cummins’ “My American Dirt,” the bestseller about Mexicans fleeing to the U.S. border that has been criticized for perpetuating stereotypes. The novel has intensified an ongoing debate over the lack of Latino representation in the publishing industry.
Winfrey told the AP last month that she did not want to “wade” again into controversies that took away attention from the books themselves. Winfrey’s interview with Cummins and critics of “American Dirt” premieres Friday on Apple TV Plus. The AP attended the February taping in Tucson, Arizona.
Winfrey’s next choice will be announced in April. Russell’s novel, like “American Dirt,” was one of the most anticipated books of 2020. But in January, author Wendy Ortiz alleged that Russell’s story of a teenager’s relationship with her high school English teacher had been lifted from her memoir “Excavation.” Reviewers who looked at both books saw no evidence of plagiarism, and Russell has since said the novel was based in part on her own life.
Winfrey’s decision was first reported by the industry newsletter Publishers Lunch.