Lemony Snicket Sparks Outrage With Offensive Comments
The A Series of Unfortunate Events author has come under fire for making racist jokes at the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony.
The National Book Foundation has also released a statement: "On Wednesday evening, November 19, 2014, at the National Book Awards, comments were made by the master of ceremonies which were entirely inappropriate, were not authorized by the National Book Foundation and which do not in any way represent the views of this organization. We regret the incident and apologize to all offended by the remarks, especially Jacqueline Woodson."
Daniel Handler has further apologized, acknowledging that his remarks were racist, and has pledged to match donations for 24 hours up to $100,000 to We Need Diverse Books, an organization that promotes diversity in children’s literature.
Daniel Handler, better known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, was the host of the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony.
After Jacqueline Woodson won the Young People’s Literature award for her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, Handler made a joke about her being allergic to watermelon.
I told you. I told Jackie she was going to win, and I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned about her this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.And I said, "You have to put that in a book." And she said, "You put it in a book." And I said, "I'm only writing a book about a black girl who's allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying 'This guy's OK. This guy's fine.'"
Handler expressed his wish to receive an Coretta Scott King Award, for which only "African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values" are eligible (8:20 mark). At another point, some viewers said, he referred to two black nominees in poetry as "probable cause." By contrast, after Louise Glück won top poetry honors for Faithful and Virtuous Night, he quoted a passage from one of her poems with visible emotion.
His offensive comments sparked outrage on Twitter:
For Handler, the disclaimer and humor, the wink that he knows he's on dangerous ground, functions to excuse a joke linking to a long racist history of associating black people with watermelon. Handler is a smart guy (I went to college with him, but never really knew him), he knows this history, and he thinks that because of his disclaimer, this is funny.It's not. Woodson can make that joke about herself. But for a powerful white author to make a watermelon joke when handing out an award to a black author, the message is - no matter what you write, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, you will always be a BLACK author, not just an author.