The n-word…and lesser offenses (part 1)

Before the shootings in Arizona occurred and national attention and disagreements turned to whether or not incivility in our political climate contibutes to such tragedies, the national debate seemed to be revolving around the n-word and whether or not it was okay to take it out of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.   I was surprised (but not in disagreement) that most of the commentary I heard or read came down on the side of  leaving Twain’s work as is.  I also felt somewhat personally vindicated since I had struggled with this issue in writing Well Considered.  I cringe a little every time someone at a book festival picks up the book and leafs through it, wondering whether that potential buyer is going to “land” in the chapter that introduces the antagonist Jimmy and his friends who regularly use the word.  But there is just not another word that so well conveys the attitude of Jimmy and friends, and it would have been dishonest not to use it.  Because a lot of the controversy about use of the n-word centers on who can use it, I was gratified that Robert Fleming of (African American Literature Book Club) at understood what I was trying to accomplish with this usage, as did other African Americans who appreciated Well Considered.
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