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‘Oprah’s Book Club’ Ditches March Pick ‘My Dark Vanessa’ After ‘American Dirt’ Controversy

Oprah WinfreyOprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life
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Following the storm surrounding one pick for her book club on Apple TV Plus, Oprah has reined back on another.

Winfrey had originally chosen “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell as the March selection for “Oprah’s Book Club,” but the decision has been taken to ditch the forthcoming novel, Variety has confirmed.

“Ultimately we did not end up moving forward with it as a book club selection,” read a brief statement from an “Oprah’s Book Club” spokesperson.

“My Dark Vanessa” centers around a fifteen-year-old girl who becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher. The novel has been subject to criticism online, notably from author Wendy Ortiz, whose 2014 memoir “Excavation” had a similar plot to Russell’s novel, only with a Latinx character at the heart of it.

“can’t wait until February when a white woman’s book of fiction that sounds very much like ‘Excavation’ is lauded,” Ortiz tweeted earlier this year.

Both books have since been reviewed, and no plagiarism found, while Russell has also admitted that “My Dark Vanessa” is based partly on her own experiences.

Sources with knowledge of Winfrey’s thinking say that going forward, the prolific host and producer is looking to be more mindful that her book club selection seal approval has the potential to create noise around a book that might drown out the discussion of the book itself.

In response to Oprah pulling “My Dark Vanessa” from her book club schedule, the novel’s publisher William Morrow has issued a statement saying it is “disappointed by their decision.”

“Yes, ‘My Dark Vanessa’ had been selected by Oprah’s Book Club for March but unfortunately it is no longer a pick. We are disappointed by their decision but thrilled to see the incredible response from early readers. From the #1 LibraryReads librarian pick to the #1 IndieNext bookseller pick, to Amazon and Apple best of the month selections, retailer support remains strong. The early critical and media reception has been enormously positive and we can’t wait for everyone to discover this powerful novel for themselves,” read a statement from a William Morrow spokesperson.

The news comes right after it was announced that Winfrey will premiere her interview with “American Dirt” author Jeanine Cummins as a two-part episode on her Apple TV Plus. That despite the recent controversy in which critics have claimed the novel to be a misrepresentation of the immigrant experience.

Winfrey has been the subject of another recent controversy surrounding her decision to withdraw from a documentary about sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons. The documentary on Simmons had been intended to also be distributed on Apple TV Plus.