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12 January 2011

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Robin

Great discussion. For what it's worth, as a homeschooling family, we've listened to Huck Finn, as an audiobook, twice so far. Our summers are such that we end up driving long distances, so I decided to have my (then) 13 and 12 yo listen to it with me. I knew about the n-word (which is how we refer to it) and had the "frank discussion". I think what is lost in this analysis of whether this novel should be abridged is that as families, we really forget that we can rely on our family vernacular.

I had a friend once, who sat her children down and told them exactly the words that they weren't allowed to say. It was funny, because here is their mother, saying the words that they weren't allowed to say. But I worried that it could be counterproductive.

Now I look at my own children, who speak as we do, simply because that's how we speak. Family vernacular.

As far as the novel goes, the narrator in the audiobook really nailed MT's dry humor, voice and wit so much so that at one point, I almost drove off the road I was laughing so hard (particularly the part where snakes kept dropping out of the ceiling at the aunt's house). If I had them listen to this at a younger age, I think most of the humor would have gone over their heads. As it was, they "got" the humor, the smarminess of "The Frauds", and the warmth and love. We've listened to it twice now because they've asked that it be our summer tradition.

Sorry for all of the words. Maybe it's the coffee talking.

Angela C.

I think his approach was a good solution; however, swapping "Negro" for "nigger" would seem to heighten awareness of what he didn't want to have to say. For example, I find it ridiculous whenever I see someone use "Vajayjay" in place of vagina. It trivializes whatever the person was trying to say just because he or she was seemingly uncomfortable with using vagina. If you're going to be crass enough to mention the unmentionable in public, you might as well go whole hog. Now, I'm not equating a medical term with a racial slur, I'm just using this to illustrate my point. I wasn't exposed to Huck Finn until I was in my sophomore year in high school, and I don't remember much about the experience. What I do remember was the very end of The Grapes of Wrath with Roseasharn breastfeeding the dying man, which I found profoundly shocking.

So, if I were to expose Mark Twain's literature to younger children, I'd have a discussion about it first, and also talk about heightening awareness of the forbidden by using a substitution.

Christy Porucznik

There was a nice piece about this on The Daily Show the other night in which Larry Wilmore, senior black correspondent, argued for not changing the words because it changed the point. Summary of his take: Jim was not a slave, he ran away from that, but he couldn't run away from being a n**.

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