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The Oscars and Huckleberry Finn

oscar smallIn January, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee called for a boycott of the Academy Awards because so few black actors were nominated. They also called for emcee Chris Rock to step down from his position. I’m glad he didn’t.

Last Sunday night in the Oscar ceremonies Chris Rock tackled the question of African-American representation in the film business head on, addressing it in his trademark irreverent way. You may or may not have liked Rock’s approach, but I thought this was a great way to use his platform to confront an issue rather than to give it up.

This made me think of a recent situation in Philadelphia. As reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer, some students at local high school Friends’ Central were offended by the use of the “n” word in the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Students and faculty took a vote and decided not to have students read the book. What a lost opportunity! What a chance this would have been for teachers to use this as a springboard for a meaningful discussion of racism and race relations, how things have changed over the years, and how things are represented in literature.

I say, use the platform you have to talk about making change. Kudos to Chris Rock for taking on an important issue with courage and humor.

One of the best novels I’ve read recently that tackles the issue of racism and does so in great literary form is Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson. It’s out in paperback now, and the Open Book friends to whom I’ve recommended it have all come back to tell me how much they like it. If you read and liked it, post a comment in my blog (click HERE). And of course we have it, as well as Huck Finn, available for sale at the Open Book Bookstore.

Finally, I’m happy to share some great recent press for Open Book…

An article in the Huffington Post and…

An article about how many new bookstores opened last year, including us!

Tomorrow at the Open Book Bookstore we a great event for adults about the art and technique of creating great children’s picture books. It’s a free event at 7pm – come on by! Details HERE.

Check out other events too, including Writers at Work Conference, Genre Mix ‘n’ Match Writing Class, Dinner and Lunch with a Book, and our fun St. Patrick’s Day event!

Author: Lynn Rosen

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1 Comment

  1. I loved Welcome to Braggsville for many of the same reasons that To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite. Johnson deals with race, privilege, family secrets and legacies, and the South’s complicated past and present in ways that are believable and nuanced. He tells a story in which place and time and race and history are all important characters. The story is engaging and suspenseful and will make readers who have lived in the rural South and/or attended elite liberal universities squirm. But squirm in a good way, squirm because the story makes the reader look at places and times from new angles, squirm because the reader is left questioning important assumptions. The author is neither preachy nor pedantic. He simply tells a story, filled with complex characters and events, a story which is in turns funny, tragic, uncomfortable, outrageous, and infuriating. I would call this one a “must-read.” Thanks for the recommendation, Lynn!

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