Try and remember last week when that professor at Auburn University announced he was releasing an edition of Huckleberry Finn where the word "nigger" was replaced with "slave". He also, for the record, plans on replacing the word "Injun" with "Indian" (OK!) and "half-breed" with "half-blood" (What? No!).
Still angry about it? Me too! You know who else is? Michael Chabon! (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policemen's Union) Check out this wonderful article Chabon wrote for The Atlantic where he sympathizes with professor Alan Gribben (even admitting to performing the same omission while reading Tom Sawyer out loud) while ultimately condemning Gribben's decision "for its cowardice, mealy-mouthedness, and all-consuming fallaciousness". My favorite part is where he lays out the discussion he had with his children before reading Huck Finn to them - the kind that this book should be inspiring in the classroom:
I explained to them that because this book was written in Huck's own voice, and because in the time and place of its setting people of both races commonly referred to black people as "niggers," and because there were a number of black characters, major and minor, in the book, I was going to be obliged to say, or not to say, that word, a great many times. I explained that saying the word made me extremely uncomfortable, that it was not a word I ever used, that some black people still used it sometimes to refer to each other, but that was importantly different, and that black people I had known were just as uncomfortable using the word around white people as white people were using it around them. I told them about my childhood friend Harry, mentioned in a prior post, who when discussing the Richard Pryor album Bicentennial Nigger with me, a fellow Pryor fan but, unlike Harry, a white boy, used to refer to it by the codename "Bice."
Next I reminded them that Mark Twain was a great artist, a moral man and, furthermore, an accurate writer. I said that as a writer myself the idea of somebody taking the words I had worked so hard to get absolutely correct and spatchcocking in whatever nonsense made them comfortable made me insane. Then I asked them what they thought I ought to do, whenever I arrived at the word in the course of the next few months. I told them how I had substituted "slave" while we were reading Tom Sawyer, but that in this book the word was going to mean so vastly much more, and less, than that.
h/t to Jacob Schraer
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