“But,” continued Ms Cummins, a white writer with Puerto Rican forbearers, “then I thought, if you’re a person who has the capacity to be a bridge, why not be a bridge?”
The book, which tells the story of a family fleeing Mexico for the US, was greeted with rave reviews from Oprah Winfrey, among others.
However, the plaudits were quickly followed by outrage from members of the Hispanic community, who complained that the novel misrepresents the Latin-American experience.
The row has rekindled a debate over prejudice in the publishing industry and over who, exactly, is allowed to tell the stories of others.
American Dirt follows a middle-class Mexican woman who escapes the country with her son after her husband, a journalist, is killed by a drug cartel. The story traces their often violent journey as migrants to the US border.
The novel was highly anticipated and Ms Cummins received a reported seven-figure book deal for a first print run of half a million copies. She was interviewed by the New York Times, which published an excerpt of the book.