New Huckleberry Finn Reprint Eliminates ‘N’ Word

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A copy of the book, circa 1900.

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For many, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was an elementary-school staple. But due to pressure from parents and educators, the version kids today may read could be significantly cleaned up.

Twain’s work is certainly a classic, but in recent years educators have shied away from teaching the book, given its use of racial epithets. The “n” word occurs 219 times in the novel, including the table of contents. In the past few decades, Finn has been either banned outright or moved to optional reading lists in schools throughout the country because of its treatment of racial issues.

(See the top 10 banned books.)

Alan Gribben, a scholar of Mark Twain, plans to release a new version of the book, this time scrubbed clean of the sensitive words. Gribben came up with the idea to change the words when, throughout his career, he omitted the epithets when reading the book aloud, replacing the “n” word with “slave” and also omitting the word “Injun” in reference to Native Americans.

“I was sought out by local teachers,” Gribben told Publishers Weekly. “They said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” So Gribben started creating this new version, which would be suitable for grade-school classrooms. General readers, not literary purists, would be the target audience.

(See portraits of Mark Twain.)

Gribben is putting his status as a Twain scholar on the line, and he expects major controversy. But if his book is successful, schoolchildren can at least hear Huck’s story — even if it’s not the original tale. (via Publishers Weekly)