February Book Reviews
"Huckleberry Finn", by Mark Twain.
Mark Twain's classic American novel, Huckleberry Finn, written in 1884, is the story of 14 year old Huck Finn and his companion, the nigger Jim, journeying down the Mississippi River. Huck is fleeing his drunk, erratic father and also the constraints of being adopted into respectability. Jim is a runaway slave fleeing because he learns he is to be sold.
There has been a proposal, in recent days, to alter the text of Mark Twain's novel, by replacing the term 'nigger' with the term 'slave'. The reason for this is that eliminating the word nigger would allow the book to be included in today's high school curriculum. I have two concerns about this:
First, the term nigger in the time of Twain's writing was not denigrating in itself; it was the language of the times, much as our use of the term 'black' is today. Second, we underestimate high school students if we assume they cannot or will not deal with language in the times and context of its use. Furthermore, while the term 'nigger', identifies, the term 'slave' describes one's status in life, and in this book it would be a constant barrier to seeing the nigger, Jim, as the individual he is.
And if they were anything, Huck Finn and Jim were individuals. In a difficult and often evil world they are seekers of freedom. Huck and Jim meet up in the woods near the river and together they raft on down the Mississippi aiming for the Ohio River and Ohio, where Jim will be free and Huck, like an American Ulysses will continue the quest. The adventure is the thing as they travel through the low and unpredictable Mississippi river world.
Huck gets by using his wits; he says of himself, "I do go a good deal by instinct." Their journey in this rough world is disrupted by unsavory characters, strange happenings, and even well meaning but harmful kindness. Often Twain seems to become Huck, marveling at what is seen and yet cleverly satirizing the society he faces.
Huckleberry Finn is considered the first truly American novel by many, including authors Hemingway, Faulkner and T.S. Eliot, agreeing that " ... like the river that flows through its pages, it remains one of the great sources that nourished and still nourishes the literature of America."
Zoe Dalheim, Lee Library Board Member.
"The Sandwich Swap",
by Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan with Kelly DiPucchio.
This is a wonderful book about friendship and tolerance. Two little girls, Salma and Lily, are best friends in school until they have a silly fight over the different sandwiches they eat every day.
Salma feels sorry that Lily has to eat “gross, yucky” peanut butter and jelly while Lily thinks Salma’s hummus on pita looks “icky”. Once they work up the courage to taste each other’s “strange” sandwiches, they find out that different can still be delicious and that it is fun to try something new.
This picture book, illustrated by Tricia Tusa, is a new book in the jE section of the library.
Rosemarie Borsody, Public Services Librarian.
There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.