[Content Note: Misogynoir; racism.]

I don't even know where to fucking begin:
The children's author Daniel Handler has apologized for an "ill-conceived" joke he made about the black American writer Jacqueline Woodson while hosting the National Book Awards.

When Woodson collected her prize for young people's literature, Handler, who writes as Lemony Snicket, joked about her being allergic to watermelon.

"My job at last night's National Book Awards #NBAwards was to shine a light on tremendous writers, including Jacqueline Woodson and not to overshadow their achievements with my own ill-conceived attempts at humor. I clearly failed, and I'm sorry," Handler said on Twitter.

Woodson won her award for Brown Girl Dreaming, a poetic memoir about growing up in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 70s, and coming to an awareness of the civil-rights movement. She was the only non-white finalist in the category.

After she ended her acceptance speech, Handler returned to the stage.

"I said that if she won I would tell all of you something I learned about her this summer. Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your minds," he said. "I said, 'You have to put that in a book.' And she said, 'You put that in a book.' And I said, 'I'm only writing a book about a black girl who's allergic to watermelon if you, Cornel West, Toni Morrison and Barack Obama say, 'This guy's OK.'"

After a few jittery laughs from the audience, Handler added: "We'll talk about it later."
You know what? You fuck up this badly, on this vast a scale, "ill-conceived attempts at humor" doesn't cut it. Especially because it's not "ill-conceived attempts at humor" for which you need to apologize. It's vile racism directed at a black woman in her moment of professional triumph.

Which, sure, created a controversy that has "overshadowed" Jacqueline Woodson, but, rather more importantly, demeaned her in the very moment, the one fucking moment, in which she was meant to be celebrated, honored, respected, admired. Not belittled by some racist jackass.

What a cruel, selfish thing to do. And how further cruel and selfish to try to pass it off as a failed joke.


Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus