Author Jennine Capó Crucet has broken her silence days after students at Georgia Southern University burned her book because she called out white privilege during a campus visit.
Crucet’s book Make Your Home Among Strangers was required reading for some freshmen classes at Georgia Southern, and last Wednesday, she visited the campus to discuss the novel. The story is about a Cuban American girl who is trying to figure out how to fit into a prestigious and predominately white college. The drama started during the Q&A portion of the event when a student accused her of “bullying” and “dissing” white people, according to The George-Anne.
“I noticed that you made a lot of generalizations about the majority of white people being privileged,” the student said. “What makes you believe that it’s okay to come to a college campus, like this, when we are supposed to be promoting diversity on this campus, which is what we’re taught. I don’t understand what the purpose of this was.”
Can we talk about the ignorant student who fueled this to begin with? pic.twitter.com/Me2rqi3cWb— Leeenda (@lynda__alexis) October 12, 2019
The moment was jarring for Crucet because the student's behavior mirrored an experienced described in the book.
“I came here because I was invited and I talked about white privilege because it’s a real thing that you are actually benefiting from right now in even asking this question,” Crucet responded.
“What’s so heartbreaking for me and what is so difficult in this moment right now is to literally have read a talk about this exact moment happening and it’s happening again. That is why a different experience, the white experience, is centered in this talk.”
Crucet’s response to the student's white tears prompted several students to burn her book in front of the dorms.
Others took to social media and posted pictures of destroyed books. Crucet was eventually moved to a hotel in another city for the remainder of her stay.
so after our FYE book’s author came to my school to talk about it... these people decide to burn her book because “it’s bad and that race is bad to talk about”. white people need to realize that they are the problem and that their privilege is toxic. author is a woman of color. pic.twitter.com/HiX4lGT7Ci— elaina⭐️ (@elainaaan) October 10, 2019
The author expressed her disapproval of the students’ actions in a statement on Friday, according to The Daily Beast. Crucet was also concerned about the students of color on Georgia Southern’s campus.
“During the event, and afterward during the book signing, many students remarked on how much the story of the novel’s protagonist mirrored their own, and expressed gratitude for the book—both to me for writing it, and to GSU for selecting it,” Crucet stated. “To think of those students watching as a group of their peers burned that story—effectively erasing them on the campus they are expected to think of as a safe space—feels devastating.”
Here’s my official statement about what happened at the @GeorgiaSouthern event — and please direct all questions or media requests to James (dot) Meader (at) picadorusa (dot) com.— Jennine Capó Crucet (@crucet) October 11, 2019
Much love and gratitude to all those who’ve shown support here and elsewhere. Abrazos to you all. pic.twitter.com/9uEuALUlvs
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Georgia Southern officials defended their students’ First Amendment rights but insisted they didn’t approve of the burnings.
“While it’s within the students’ First Amendment rights, book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values nor does it encourage the civil discourse and debate of ideas,” the school said in a statement.
Georgia Southern’s history department will host a teach-in on book burning, censorship and free speech on Tuesday, and the student government association is having a meeting on Wednesday.