Winfrey’s about-face follows her decision to pick Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt for her book club in January. That novel had been accused by critics of promoting stereotypes of Mexican people.
A spokesperson for Winfrey confirmed the cancellation of the selection, telling AP, “Ultimately we did not end up moving forward with it as a book club selection.”
My Dark Vanessa, about a teenage girl in a sexual relationship with her teacher, is scheduled to be published next week. The novel was embroiled in a Twitter-based controversy in January after author Wendy C. Ortiz pointed out what she says are similarities between Russell’s book and her own memoir, Excavation.
In an essay for Gay Mag, Ortiz wrote, “A white woman has written a book that fictionalizes a story many people have survived and the book is receiving tremendous backing and promotion.…As we watch what’s taking place with American Dirt....I can tell you that similar celebrations will happen around My Dark Vanessa. It has to, in order for that advance make any sense.”
Ortiz stopped short of accusing Russell of plagiarism and admitted that she had not read My Dark Vanessa.
After the publication of Ortiz’s essay, Russell issued a statement revealing that her novel “was inspired by my own experiences as a teenager.” Many readers expressed anger that Russell felt obligated to make the statement.
Winfrey’s next book club pick will be announced in April, the AP reports.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.