Despite the multiple cultural inaccuracies and Spanish dialogue of Google Translate quality sprinkled throughout, the manuscript was acquired by Flatiron Books for seven figures in a nine-way bidding war. Hailed as a modern-day “The Grapes of Wrath” by the writer Don Winslow, it was heavily promoted for a year, poised to be the book on the immigrant crisis.
I’m not equipped to chime in on the issues around this book, whether the person should or should not have written this story being of a different cultural background than her subjects.
However, I can comment on the question of “Spanish dialogue of Google Translate quality.” Being a former French > English translator, I have assisted a few best-selling authors with bits of French texts in their novels. Not being native French, I also had my son – who is bilingual from birth – check and edit my translations. I’ve also edited English texts in works in other languages; essentially the opposite direction from this book.
For an American author to not find a native Spanish speaker to translate, or at least check the “Google translations” is a very serious error. It’s not that hard to find people to “fact check” translations. With seven figure advance, this suggests that both the author and publisher had the means to hire a professional translator to go over the text and make corrections.
There is really no excuse for this sort of thing in books. Are publishers and authors so cheap they don’t want to spend what would probably be a few hundred, or maybe a couple thousand dollars for this sort of work? Shame on them.