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This Week's Family Dinner Download: Mark Twain And The 'N-Word'

Family Dinner Download

First Posted: 01/07/11 02:50 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

In her new book, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie to launch a new feature we're calling HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads. Every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.


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This week, an Alabama-based publisher opted to release a revision of what many consider the greatest American novel ever written, with one significant change. NewSouth Books will publish a version of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn replacing all 219 instances of the "n-word" in the anti-racist classic with the word "slave." "Yes, the 'n word' was impolite and rude when Twain included it in the book," one defender of the revision writes, "but it didn't carry the same historical, cultural, or political baggage that it does now."

The professor who spearheaded the revision of the classic argued, "It enables us to set this inflammatory racial epithet aside and begin to address the greatness of Twain's works," alluding to the novel being taught less because of aversion to the "n-word." But others point out that an edited version, "doesn't challenge children [and their teachers] to ask, 'Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?'" More pointedly, another said, "Glad to see they are censoring Huckleberry Finn. Hopefully next they'll paint Snuggies onto all these nude people in old European art."

What do you think -- is it appropriate to alter an author's words because they've become increasinly loaded and hurtful over time? Do you think the revision will enable more kids to read and study Twain's work? Is this any different from the expletives being bleeped out of a movie on TV? If you've read the book in school, what happened when the "n-word" in the text came up in class? Do you think changing Twain's words in this way changes the original meaning of what he was writing? Do you see any risks in revising classics decades after they're written if certain words in them evolve over time? What are other books you've read in school that have controversial elements?


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For more tips and recipes, check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt.
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