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The Right Thing to Do is the Right Thing to Do

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A.F. Bradley, New York, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first banned a year after its publication in 1885. It is said to have been banned every year since. When informed of the censorship, author Mark Twain remarked that the controversy would only increase sales.

Hi, I’m Marcy McKay from Amarillo, author of the award-winning novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven. I’m excited to be a Radio Reader for High Plains Public Radio’s Book Club.

I just finished rereading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, which takes place in the American South in the 1840’s. Huck is the son of the town drunk and has no mom. He ends up on the run with a slave named Jim, floating down the mighty Mississippi – desperate to be free.

Hi, I’m Marcy McKay from Amarillo, author of the award-winning novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven. I’m excited to be a Radio Reader for High Plains Public Radio’s Book Club.

I just finished rereading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, which takes place in the American South in the 1840’s. Huck is the son of the town drunk and has no mom. He ends up on the run with a slave named Jim, floating down the mighty Mississippi – desperate to be free.

First things first, they use the “N-word” to describe slave Jim. It’s a horrible word that should never be used, and I am not condoning it. Some people want to ban the book for that very reason.

I understand, but also want to make two points. First, that word was common when Mark Twain during that period of American History. That still does not make it right, but it’s a fact.

Secondly, I’m an author. I don’t think we should ban books. I think stories help us have hard conversations. Research has proven that reading make us more empathetic. Stories show us the world in new and unexpected ways, which is what Mark Twain did with Jim.

That black slave is the only adult who treats that white orphan like a real person. In turn, Huck stops treating Jim like a less than, and starts treating him like a friend.

I think that’s a lesson we could all use these days.

My Backstory with Huck Finn

My English teacher in fifth grade was Mrs. Wakefield, circa 1977. Every day, she would read a chapter to us from an ongoing book. I was a good student, but it was still my favorite part of each day. That’s where I heard so many classics: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Arabian Nights, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

My love of reading and writing began in that classroom. In fact, my novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven is sometimes compared to Huck Finn. Yes, that’s a shameless plug for my book, but listen to this – it’s about an eleven-year-old homeless girl who “lives” at the cemetery, then wakes up one morning to discover her mom is gone. She even talks about the Somebodies and the Nobodies of the world. It’s a totally different story, but I wonder how much of my heroine was inspired by Huck and his rag-tag group of friends from years ago.

The Hucks and Jims of Society

This BookByte is being recorded in 2021, over a year-and-a-half into a global pandemic, and I’m so #$%@ tired of this. I’m exhausted from our world being divided about everything from COVID, masks, politics, vaccines, to social-justice issues and so much more.

We are all struggling during this impossible time in history, but do you know who’s suffering most?

The Hucks and Jims of society.

The poor, the sick, the friendless and the needy – they did not have a voice before March 2020, and they sure don’t now. For those of us who are privileged enough to have any voice should help others. We need to help improve their lives, as well as stand up for so many of the injustices that can no longer be ignored.

Should Huckleberry Finn be banned?

I still don’t have an answer – I just know the friendship I read about as a child between a black slave and a white orphan taught me that I am my brother’s keeper.

That we’re more alike than we are different.

That the right thing to do is the right thing to do.

So, those are my thoughts about Huckleberry Finn, a classic from the prolific Mark Twain. This is Marcy McKay, local author from Amarillo and Radio Reader from High Plains Public Radio. For more information, go to HPPR.org.

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Fall 2021: RIVERS meandering meaning2021 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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