In honor of Martin Luther King Day (or, if you depend on Twitter for your research, Martian Luther King Day, or maybe Martin Lutheran King Day), I woke Jackson up and told him he had the day off school to think about peace and forgiveness and racism. Which is timely, because he told me they’re going to read Huck Finn in class next year. According to an older kid at Jackson’s school, they use the original version, not the “sanitized” one. As a purist, I am sort of glad about that? I dig that they’re sticking with the version Twain wrote in all its post-antebellum glory, and I completely trust his teachers’ ability to guide a mixed-race classroom through the subtleties, ironies, and vagaries of the text. (I think Twain’s pretty blunt, actually. Plus there’s plenty of action.) But part of me thinks the themes are too big to grasp at that age. They’re gearing up with Tom Sawyer right now, and frankly, Jackson seems more prepared than I was at ten to examine his conscience and inherited beliefs. Huck didn’t have much appeal for me at that age; once Becky Thatcher fell out of the picture I think it felt too much like a boys-only story. It wasn’t until I wandered into a post-grad course on Melville and Twain and read all of his travel writings that I got fully back on board the Twain train. (I will also recommend Melville’s Typee if you’re interested in avoiding Moby Dick. It’s full of ships and exotic lady savages and longing for simplicity and all that unironic 19th-century stuff.) In the end, he’ll read it now and if he’s lucky he’ll read it again as an adult and it will be a whole new book for him.
(Thanks to a suggestion that Jackson read Origami Yoda and Darth Paper, we made some origami cranes and put them in their origami nests. It’s a post-racial way to honor MLK, as we judged these cranes not by the color of their paper, but by our ability to fold them without making them all wrinkly and sad.)