As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the NewSouth is publishing an updated version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that omits racially sensitive words. We consider this completely backwards and can’t help but imagine Mark Twain spinning in his grave. Tayari Jones, whose exquisite novel Silver Sparrow we’ll be publishing May 24, sums up our feelings exactly in her astute opinion piece, “Scrubbing ‘Huck Finn,’ and Our History.”
Jones writes: “I find it peculiar that the concept of human chattel is not too harsh for young readers, but a six-letter word renders this work obscene.
The value of Huckleberry Finn is that it explores racism and friendship in a way that shows the complicated relationships between blacks and whites. Huck and Jim certainly care for each other, but at the same time it’s true that Huck refers to his friend as ‘Nigger Jim.’
This is a complicating dynamic that should not be omitted … Prettying up the language also pretties up the historical record of antebellum life in the American South. If we are in a position in which schools cannot be honest about what African-Americans were called during slavery, what hope is there that students will ever be told the reality of what enslaved people experience?”
You can read the rest of the piece in its entirety at AOL News.
Tayari Jones has written for McSweeney’s, the New York Times, and The Believer. Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, received best of the year nods from the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Creative Loafing. The Untelling won the Lillian C. Smith Award from the Southern Regional Council and was a Target Breakout Book. Jones holds degrees from Spellman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She is on the MFA faculty at Rutgers-Newark University and blogs on writing at tayarijones.com.
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