Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 17, 2009

*** I am recuperating well from the surgery I had on January 9th. I am still waiting to learn the results of the biopsy but am confident it will be negative.

***It is bitter cold here in western Massachusetts with the temp reaching -17 two nights ago, and more snow is expected tonight and tomorrow. This is how it should be in New England in January.

***Two days and thirteen hours until the inauguration. A friend came back a few months ago after living in France for two years. She brought with her a bottle of champagne which she has been saving for a special occasion, and that occasion, she decided, is to toast President Obama and a new era in United States history. January 12 was "Coming of Age Day" in Japan. Tuesday, January 20, will be Coming of Age Day for this nation.

***For those of you who may be curious as to what I sound like, I was interviewed this week by radio station WBUR in Boston. Click on the link to hear some of my thoughts on the coming Obama administration and to see a few of the photographs I took in the South in 1966.

In last Sunday's "New York Times Book Review," there was an essay-review of a book, Little Rebels: A Collectioin of Radical Children's Literature . The reviewer, Caleb Crain, referred to "High John the Conqueror", a folk tale I'd retold in my Black Folktales (1969). I wrote a letter to the NYTBR in response to his stupid remark. In case the Times does not publish it, here it is:

"In Caleb Crain’s essay, 'Children of the Left, Unite!' (Jan. 11), reference is made to my retelling of the 'High John the Conqueror' folk tales (Black Folktales, 1969). Crain characterizes their inclusion in Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature, the subject of his essay, as 'Inappropriate' because the anthology’s editors give 'no warning' that the tale 'deploys the N-word with gusto.' The High John the Conqueror tales originated in slavery when 'the N-word' was a part of the ordinary speech of blacks and whites. Its use in this (and many other tales from slavery) show how the 'N-word' was used by slaves to show affection for each other as well as to make class distinctions between those who worked in the plantation owner’s house and those who worked in the field. How the word was used revealed much about the sociology of the slave community. And yes, the word was often used with 'gusto', and appropriately so."

Julius Lester

1 comment:

EnnaVic said...

Glad you are recovering well from the surgery - I hope all will be well.

I will also be crying when Obama makes his pledge - I'm getting up at 5:30am to watch. I am not an American. I still cringe at the fact that when I lived in the US for a year in the 1970's (father was teaching in a US university ) I was made to pledge allegiance to the flag. I was hugely offended, even then as an 8yo, that I should be made to recite a pledge to someone else's flag when I was very proud of my own country and belonged nowhere else...

But Obama brings hope to the rest of the world as well as the US. A lot of pressure on him - but I think if he even accomplishes even a tiny percent of what people are hoping for it will make a difference. And to be honest if he does absolutely nothing even that will be a huge improvement on the last 8 years.

I'm also looking forward to the poem - but would have loved it to be Maya Angelou writing / presenting it now. Would have been a perfect match to the occasion.

Enjoy Inauguration Day