Banned Book of the Month: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Consistently among the most challenged books in schools and libraries, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has courted controversy since its original publication back in 1885, though not always for the same reason. It was first removed from the collection of the Concord Free Library in Massachusetts over its “rough, course and inelegant expressions.”

cover-of-the-annotated-huckleberry-finnI suppose it is a sign of progress that one of those expressions, once deemed merely impolite and “trashy,” is now universally regarded as the deeply hurtful hate speech it is. Yet the ongoing controversy occasioned by the book’s frequent use of racial epithets, as well as characterizations which seem to both lampoon and to embody stereotypes, shows that the racial  issues raised and addressed by Huck Finn are far from academic. Author Toni Morrison captures the crux of the problem when she praises the book’s “…ability to transform its contradictions into fruitful complexities and to seem to be deliberately co-operating in the controversy it has excited. The brilliance of Huckleberry Finn is that it is the argument it raises.”

It should be acknowledged that most of the clashes over Continue reading “Banned Book of the Month: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

Seattle Reads author … in Seattle!

Photo of Dinaw MengestuDinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, is in town (see the schedule for his five Library visits and two other appearances) — and that in itself is a beautiful thing. Lots of cities now have community reads or “One Book” projects to bring people together for  discussions and events centered around a book. But we are extra lucky here in Seattle because the Washington Center for the Book has, for 10 years now, also managed to bring large crowds of readers together to see the author.  I’m going to see Mengestu on Friday night (Central Library at 7 p.m.) and the word on the street (and around the Library) is that his parents will be there, too. Super cool!

Although Library-sponsored book discussions are wrapping up this week, dozens of book groups around Seattle will be reading and discussing The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears for months to come. Members of my book group are seeing the author this week Continue reading “Seattle Reads author … in Seattle!”