Category Archives: Books

Pinching Zwieback: A review



I know I am biased but my good friend Mitch Toews has written a very good novel. Or is it a very good collection of stories trying to be a novel?  It doesn’t matter. All you have to know is that to read it truly worth the trip.


I first got to know Mitch when we were both on a senior men’s basketball team. I was the mascot. Oddly, two members of that team have become writers.  The other is well-known Dave Bergen. Mitch may soon be just as well known. Sadly, both Mitch and Dave were much better basketball players than I was and also excellent writers. Some guys get all the breaks. Sometimes life is not fair.


Once a week through the thick and thin of winter the team drove to Winnipeg, though some like Dave Bergen lived in Winnipeg so did not have the benefit of participating in those wonderful road trips. On the way back home after a couple of “short ones” from the Nicolett Bar with itsMega Parties” attended by about 3 or 4 customers in addition to our team, I remember Mitch would often regale us with stories.  Sitting in the car with our sweaty socks and smells of stale beer, Mitch would sometimes tell long stories that were told with minute details that gave them the luster of truth, even though they were obviously filled with outrageous lies. Trump-sized lies!  At best they had a whiff of the truth. I knew then, right away, that he was a wordsmith and should write. After all, lies are what fiction is all about. And Mitch was a master liar.

Now Mitch has proved I was right about that with his magnificent book Pinching Zwieback: Made up Stories from the Darp.“ [“Darp” is a small town.]

We have to forgive Mitch for his appropriation of Mennonite culture. He uses a sprinkling of Low-German words to give the book the tang of Mennonite, but he provides a set of definitions so even those unfamiliar with this glorious language will understand the word in the books.  But that is all right, he is allowed to appropriate from his own culture, even if he is an outlier. Or out liar?


I really liked the stories about Died Rich (Diedrich) Deutsch who was obviously modelled after another member of our team mates. Died Rich is befriended by Dr. Rempel who discovers “an infinity-sized loophole” from hell. Lucky guy. He is free to do what he wants. So he tries to start a new religion with Died Rich as his first convert.



  1. My favourite story though is “Without Spot or Wrinkle” in which 2 characters are clearly fictionalized versions of my great uncle Peter and Tante Suzie.  Matt’s father Hart owns a bakery and goes to the Credit Union for a loan. After all the business has one of the “ freshly printed chequebooks that makes money appear as if by magic—or possibly as some claim—in response to prayer.”  Hart notices the desk for the loans officers is “rectilinear and oppressively neat” telling us a lot about the community in which it is located.  As well, there is a plaque “that smells like money” where “A framed dollar bill looks down from the wall like a coat-of-arms.” It is a place with a stern “ Elizabeth Regina overseeing all.” In that image you know all you need to know about this institution. This is a place that only those who are not faint of heart should enter. It reminds me of the line by Bob Dylan, “Jack the Ripper sits at the head of the Chamber of Commerce selling road maps of the soul.”


When Hart admits to the account manager  he doesn’t attend church he knows his chance of getting the loan are sunk. When “Elizabeth Regina looks down, a savage smile on her green lips,” you know that smile is for Hart and he knows all he needs to know. When the account manager “closes the ledger with a soft thud…the neat rows of numbers seem to protest—the zeros calling out in open -mouthed desperation.” To no avail of course.


Fortunately, he finds a much more friendly banker down the street. Mr. Heid, no doubt modelled after kindly old T.G. Smith, ‘with a green-stained baseball” on his desk you which lets you know his chances are much better here. Hart has landed at a kinder, gentler, and smarter lender. Heid fortunately is not one of the so-called Christians. As Matt’s friend Peter Vogel said, “He has a firm hand on the idea of being fair—helping his neighbours no matter who or what he is. Not a church man that Heid, but he acts more like one than some others.”  Vogel has sharp words for the newer lenders like those at the Credit Union that “forget the old ways, those guys with their fine suits.”


I always knew Mitch would be a good writer. I just didn’t know how good. The stories whisper words of wisdom. The best kind of wisdom in a world in which we get too much of the other kind.  All of you should get out and buy this book. Immediately. This guy can write, a heck-of-a-lot better than he ever played basketball.


The Shortest History of Israel and Palestine


When the war between Hamas and Israel began I decided I must read a book about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  I read such a book quite a few years ago. I certainly needed a refresher. The read certainly was not refreshing however.

As a result, I read the book, The Shortest History of Israel and Palestine by Michael Scott-Baumann. From the blurbs on the cover it seemed to be an impartial view of that conflict. I think I made a good choice. Its a very good book.

What have I learned as a result of reading that book?  One main thing has become absolutely clear to me. That is that I have no idea who started the war or who started the current conflict either for that matter. So I had not learned who is right. But I am sure about one thing I am sure about Iwho is wrong.  Both sides are wrong! And they have been wrong over and over again.

 Mainly, they have been wrong because both sides have repeatedly acquiesced with what their extremists are doing in their name. And the result of that is clear. Turning over “your side” to your extremists is so ensure that peace has no chance. You can’t give peace a chance when you turn your case over to the extremists. And the same goes for the other side. No moderation; no peace. The extremists will make sure of that. Over and over again it seems that is exactly what they extremists want.

And if no side is right then the Buffalo Springfield are right when they sang:


“There’s battle lines being drawn

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”


An investment in Coyotes




Late one afternoon in early January, soon after arriving in Arizona, I went for a lovely walk in San Tan Mountain Regional Park after purchasing an annual pass that allows unlimited walking through the desert. I bought the annual pass for about $70 even though we won’t be here for more than 3&1/2 months, it won’t take long for me to recoup my investment.

On my walk I listened to the incredible irrational exuberance of the coyotes. That is the true sound of the wild. I did not see them on this walk, but I did on others.

Edward Abbey is one of the finest interpreters of the Southeastern United States. His book, Desert Solitaire, about this region is a masterpiece. Everyone who wants to understand this place should read it. And then read it again. I will be referring to that book that I read before my second trip to this wonderland on this voyage of discovery.

Edward Abbey appreciated the wild. That meant he appreciated coyotes. This is what he said about them in that wonderful book:

“I have been honored by the serenade of a den of coyotes—a family perhaps—somewhere about a mile to the west of my camp. Weird unearthly song—like the legendary wail of banshees…Occult music is but a part of the coyote’s repertoire: they vary the program with more conventional howls, yelps, and barks when it pleases them to do so. Usually, they stop their singing and retire to the rocks, out of caution, soon after the sun comes up…We need coyotes, need them badly…As does the nation as a whole, for that matter. We need coyotes more than we need, let us say , more people, of whom we already have an extravagant surplus, or more domesticated dogs, which in all fairness could and should be ground up into hamburger and used as emergency coyote food, to raise their spirits and perhaps improve the tenor of their precious howling.”

Rather harsh words, but not entirely without merit. If you want to learn about the deserts of the American Southwest as I do, I strongly recommend Abbey’s book. And a walk in the desert. If you hear the coyotes your soul will be filled.


Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin


Many people love the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It might be the most beloved book in America. Is it a better book than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Are they comparable? If one is better than the other why is that?


Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not averse to preaching and trying to persuade the reader how heinous slavery is. And she is completely right about that.  But Mark Twain was different. Twain said in the introduction to his book that no one should look for a moral or message in his novel. He was just telling stories he said. Yet in Twain’s book, as Azar Nafisi pointed out, “He does not play on our sentiments, but stirs our hearts in ways we had never imagined possible.”


Twain shows us the hideous underbelly of slavery and racism all without preaching. In fact, Huck himself speaks about how wicked it is to help a slave to escape. His conscience burns when he does it. He believes he is committing a sin that will lead him directly to hell. Yet he does it anyway. He forsakes his up bringing, his “conscience”, and everything be believes, for the sake of his black slave friend.


Stowe wanted to change the world through her ideas. Twain elicited ideas when they could lead to good stories and he did that by offering an alternative reality. And at this Twain was a genius. This is what great art is all about. This is why in my opinion Huck Finn is perhaps the greatest novel ever written and why Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a good book.


Sin is hard to Give up


In the novel the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is tormented by his actions in helping Jim escape from his rightful owner. He even considered doing the “right thing” and telling Miss Watson what he had done and deliver Jim back to her. He thought Jim might be better off as a slave near his family.


Huck gave up on that idea because no doubt Miss Watson would not accept anything from him because of Jim’s rascality and ungratefulness. After all, the slave should have been grateful, Huck thought, for having such a good master as Miss Watson. Miss Watson would likely sell Jim down the river again because “everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger.” After all,  Huck was also scared that everyone would find out that Huck had disgraced himself by helping Jim escape.  This is what he thought about that”


“And then think of me! It would get around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get  his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame.”


But that was only the half of it.  After all he committed a sin. As Huck said,


“Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I wasn’t so much to blame, but something inside of me kept saying,  “There was the Sunday school, you couldn’t ‘a’ gone to it; and if you’d ‘a’ done it they’d ‘a’ learnt you there that people that acts as I’d been acting about the nigger goes to everlasting fire.”

Huck even tried prayer. On his knees filled with repentance for what he’d done. But he couldn’t do it:

“But the words wouldn’t come out. Why wouldn’t they come? warn’t no use to run and hide it from Him. Nor from me neither. I knew very well why they wouldn’t’ come. It was because my heart warn’t right’ it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie.”


Helping Jim, Huck believed was a sin that would lead him to hell, yet he did anyway. Huck was greatly relieved when he realized this because he knew he had done a very bad thing.  As Huck said,


I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had felt so good in all my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight of, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened and so how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And I went on thinking over our trip down the river and and I see Jim before me all the time; in the day and in the night time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along  dark, talking’ singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind


No matter what ideology he had been brought up with, Huck was able to break out of it. He just couldn’t be a supporter of slavery no matter how sinful he thought that made  him. His natural goodness burst through the chains of ideology. He was prepared to go to hell if necessary.


Friendship or Hell?


I have come to the conclusion that Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is my favorite novel. It is the classic of classics. Why is that?  What makes it so great? I think it so great because explores, as no one else has done as well, the issue of freedom. Above all it explores the freedom to think for oneself. So many people extoll the virtues of freedom particularly in the US and Canada. But I find they mostly have a very shallow notion of what freedom is all about. Not so with Twain. He knew what ultimate freedom is all about.

The novel Huckleberry Finn challenges all authority. None are sacred. Particularly the sacred is not sacred. Freedom from authority is the real freedom.

Huck Finn’s journey with Jim down the Mississippi River was a journey towards knowledge. It was an education. Huck has to learn, and even more important, he has to unlearn. As Nafisi said, he was on a trip in which Huck is “countering the lessons of Sunday school.”

The novel challenges the morality of slavery, but it actually goes much farther than that. The trip to the dangerous south asks a more fundamental question: What can you do when your moral code lets you down?  That is what Huck wrestles with throughout the novel.

The central question Huck must deal with is how can he help his friend Jim by finding freedom when he “knows” that is wrong. In fact, Huck “knows” that is a sin to help a slave to freedom. That is what he learned in Sunday School and from Aunt Sally, Miss Watson, and the Widow Douglas.  But he must unlearn that. As Huck says, “I couldn’t get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way.” When Huck is fighting with his conscience he comes across slave hunters and resolves to deliver Jim to them, because it is the right thing to do, but as hard as he tries to do the right thing he cannot give up his friend. He thinks he is not man enough to do what he “should” do.

When Huck has difficult decisions to make he always has “a long think.” That is a good practice. He thinks slowly and critically. But he thinks. As he says to himself, and of course, us, “The more I studied about this the more my conscience was grinding me, and the more wicked and lowdown and ornery I got to feeling.”  If he had gone to Sunday School as he should have, he would have learned that “people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.” He even tries to pray but his “heart  wasn’t right.” Again he decides to do the “right thing” and give up Jim by writing to Miss Watson. As soon as he rights the letter he feels much better. His conscience is finally clear. He feels “good  and all washed clean of sin for the first time I even felt in my life and I knowed I could pray now.” But even then he continues to think and that is his undoing. He think too much and decides he will go against everything he has ever been taught. It is extremely difficult to do.

And then Huck considers the reality of Jim. He continues to think through the day after he wrote the letter to Miss Watson. In a remarkable statement that shows the power of genuine connection compared to the disrupted connection of a corrupt ideology, Huck says this:

“I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moon time, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow sometimes I couldn’t seem to strike no place to harden me against him, but only the other kind.  I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was; when I come back out of the fog; and when come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I truck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in then the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look  and see that paper [the letter he wrote to Miss Watson but had not yet sent, that would return Jim to slavery].

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling because I’d got to decide forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then I’ll go to hell—and tore it up.”


I think Twain is saying if you look at the real person, rather than the person you expect to see through the lens of your religion, or politics, or ideology then you can see the real person. Notice too how Huck and Jim have become “we.”  They are connected by a deep sense of fellow feeling. That is what real morality, and real art, and real religion are all about. They are not about ideology or dogma.

Has there ever been a greater friendship in all of literature than this? Has there ever been a greater friendship in the whole world than this?  Huck was prepared to do what he believed was wrong because that is what he was taught, and that is what everybody did, in order to save his friend, even though it meant going to hell?

That is what ultimate freedom is all about!


Smothery Civilization


Mark Twain in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not endorse what Huck calls “sivilization.” Huck cannot stand “sivilization” because it smothers the life out of him. It causes him at the beginning of the novel and again at the end to “light out for the territories.”


At the beginning of the novel he says:

“The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me: but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular, and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. “


New clothes confine him too much too. He can’t stand them either .  As Huck said, about the widow: “She put me in them new clothes again and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat, and sweat, and felt all cramped up.” Later Huck said, “I didn’t want to go back to the widow’s anymore and be so cramped up and civilized as they called it.”


When Tom tells Huck that is how everybody lives Huck defiantly says, “I ain’t everybody and I can’t STAND it.” Then he philosophizes like a true rebel: “being rich ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. It’s just worry and worry and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time.” He doesn’t to be rich and live in those smothery houses. Tom would rather live on a raft where life was “free and easy.”


One of the themes of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the fact that Huck and Jim are both on a voyage of discovery searching for freedom. Jim’s search is more obvious. He is enslaved and separated from his family and desperately wants to get to them. Eventually, after much hesitation and doubt, each of them makes a burst for freedom.


Too many Americans, according to Huck, have traded their freedom for respectability, and this is what he does not want to do. He doesn’t want to conform. He sees that as smothering death.  For Huck life of respectability smothers him so much that he “was a wishing you was dead all the time.”


That is why both of them loved the raft and were fearful of houses and civilization.  As Huck said,

“We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.”


Huck Finn needs freedom like the rest of us need air. He can’t breathe without freedom.


At the end of the novel, after Jim is knows he was freed by Miss Watson in her will, that it was time for Huck to get away from ‘sivilization.’  As he said,

But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.


That is what the book is all about—taking a burst for freedom before one gets sivilized, before one is tamed. That is what Tom Sawyer was unable to do. Only Huck could do it. Americans constantly claim to be free when they seem tied slavishly to conventions that smother them. They need a better declaration of independence.


As Azar Nafisi said, “We must make a new declaration of independence, a spiritual rather than a political one this time.”



Conscience and heart


In a notebook Twain wrote in 1895 where  he described his Huck Finn as “a book of mine where a sound heart & a deformed conscience come into collision & conscience suffers defeat.”  Now conscience is a bit of an unusual word in this context.  Twain really meant “conventional morality” or “norms” by the word “conscience.” Twain was really speaking against conventional morality. Conventional morality or “conscience” was corrupt, for it allowed for the exploitation of slaves and discrimination against African Americans as being moral.


Huck thought he was immoral when he revolted against the conventional morality of his day that allowed a person to be declared worthless solely based on the colour of his or her skin.  The is a morality against which we must revolt. Nothing else will do. That is what Huck learned. The heart knew better than the “conscience.” Twain, like Nietzsche, wanted to turn morality upside down. This was the conventional morality or “conscience” that he  wanted to subvert in favour of a new morality.


Azar Nafisi summed up this purpose this way:

“From its first to its last page, Huck Finn shows us that everything that is accepted as the normal, respectable, is in essence not normal or respectable. It is s book in which “educated” people are the most ignorant, stealing is “borrowing,” people with “upbringings” are scoundrels, goodness is heartless, respectability  stands for cruelty, and danger lurks, most especially at home. It is a book in being “white” is not a badge of honor and you will go to hell if you do the right thing…Within the confines of this upside-down world, the only way for Huck and Jim to survive is to be dead.”


When such a conventional morality is confronted we ought to rebel against it. That is why Twain in his novel calls for a revaluation of values. They must be subverted, because the conventional morals are corrupt.

Original Sin




Mark Twain was not ignorant of what others have called the original sin of America—i.e. the catastrophic slaying of indigenous people and the slavery of African Americans. This is a sin so dark it is not clear how America can ever atone for it.


In 1881 Twain gave a dazzling speech to the New England Society of Philadelphia who were celebrating the anniversary of the Pilgrim’s landing on Plymouth Rock. He challenged the good people of the society to avoid smugness at that history.  He began his speech by asking the audience what they wanted to celebrate. As Nafisi said,


Speaking to the descendants of the Mayflower he begins by asking his audience what they would wish to celebrate

“those ancestors of yours of 1620—the Mayflower tribe,” whom he describes as a “hard Lot” who “took care of themselves but they abolished everybody else’s ancestors.” Twain differentiates himself from his hosts, telling them, “I am a border ruffian from the state of Missouri. I am a Connecticut Yankee by adoption. I have the morals of Missouri and the culture of Connecticut , and that’s the combination that makes the perfect man…


Twain says his ancestors are precisely those people their ancestors abolished. As Nafisi said,


“Identifying with those “abolished” ancestors, he assumes the identity of America’s persecuted underdogs, and says his first American ancestor was “an early Indian.” Your ancestors skinned him alive, and I am an orphan. Not one drop of my blood flows in that Indian’s veins today. I stand here, lone and forlorn, without an ancestor”.


What a fascinating idea that his ancestors were the native American indigenous people who were slaughtered by Americans.


Twain also laments how “your tribe,” the Americans, chased the Quakers out of the country “for their religions sake.”  He added, They broke forever the chain of political slavery and gave the vote to every man in this wide land, excluding none!—none except those who  did not belong to the orthodox church.  Next Twain invokes others who were used and abused by their ancestors: the witches and finally the most persecuted and marginalized of all, the black slave. “The first slave brought into New England out of Africa by your progenitors was an ancestor of mine—I am of a mixed breed, an infinitely shaded and exquisite Mongrel. I am not one of your sham meerschaums that you can color in a week.” Twain identified with the spat upon and beat upon.  As a result, Twain was able to create what Nafisi called “an epic of the first American rogue.”


Here we learn what Twain revolted from—the exploitation of others. And this was, I would suggest the classic theme of this magnificent novel that makes it one of the glories of literature anywhere.


Sadly, Americans have not taken Twain’s case to heart. As Nafisi said, “After Twain, it becomes difficult to talk about America without acknowledging those absent ancestors, conveniently airbrushed out of the preferred mythology of America’s glorious origins.” Unlike Twain, too many Americans are not able to take an impartial view of their own history. In fact, as has been seen in the last few years, the American conservatives are actively trying to scrub out the truth of American history. They can’t bear to look at it. These Americans, unlike the best Americans, are not able to look at the truth. And as Nietzsche said “the measure of a person’s worth is how much truth he can stand.” These modern Americans reveal they have little worth because they can’t stand the truth.


Unlike so many other Americans who blamed England for all the sins of America, Twain wanted Americans to see their own sins. This theme was then picked up by other great American writers.

Of course Huck and Jim, the heroes of the novel,  embodied the mongrels and ruffians that Twain celebrated. .





There is a bad word that recurs in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It recurs 219 times. That is difficult to read.  Many people don’t like that.  I don’t like that. Some people want the book to be banned as a result. But I know there is a reason. It is a terrible word that represents more than 400 years of racial subjugation. It is deeply offensive to African Americans. It should be equally offensive to white Americans (and Canadians). Amazingly, it is still used sometimes. More often than it. Thank goodness for that.

Many people have wanted to ban the book because of that word. But the words is important. It was the way people talked in those days. And sometimes still do. Twain knew that. He wanted us to squirm when we heard that word. Many of us do exactly that. I know I did.

If the word were excised from the book, as many have suggested, it would emasculate the book. It would not be telling us the truth about America in the 1870s. It would whitewash America much like Tom Sawyer had to whitewash the fence. It must stay in. Nothing else will do. To insist on its removal on pain of banishment of the book, as some people have done, is to refuse to look at the reality of 19 century America, and that is a reality that must be confronted. Not evaded. Twain did exactly that in the noble character of Jim.

Some liberals have wanted to eliminate the word to placate African Americans. Many of them have called for that. I prefer the approach of Toni Morrison who said, Twain’s use of the word, “the narrow notion of how to handle the offense Mark Twain’s use of the term ‘nigger’ would occasion for black students and the corrosive effect it would have on white ones,” was “a purist yet elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate children. Amputate the problem., band-aid the solution.” Children should not be protected from this word they should face it. That may be hard, but it is important. They should think about what the word signifies about white society of the day. And what the effects of that society are still felt today.

Azar Nafisi said it well in her wonderful book Reading Lolita in Tehran ,

“Education’s goal is to impart knowledge, and knowledge is not only heretical but unpredictable and often uncomfortable.  One has to pause and imagine what it would mean to censor all that is uncomfortable from our textbooks. How if we cannot face the past as it was, can you ever hope to teach history.”


As the American literary critic Leslie Fiedler showed, we have to be willing to walk into a dark cave and carry a torch to the back and see the truth. Then we must come out and speak the truth we have found. Nothing short of that is good enough. That is the kind of courage we must have. The book challenges our courage.

Twain used this word deliberately. As Nafisi said, “He wanted to shock us, make us uncomfortable, to arouse us from our indolent acquiescence.” That is what modern American conservatives don’t like. They want the bad parts of history to be removed. Such indolence is the begging of oppression.

Twain understood as perhaps few others ever did, the extent to which racial bias was hidden and deeply embedded in American society.  That was deeply pernicious, yet it was the basis for justifying slavery. It was the basis later for Jim Crow laws.

Nafisi made a very important point:

“Each time the word (nigger) is used, it is simultaneously questioned, subverted, destabilized and discredited—in the same manner that terms like “respectable” or “white” are transformed and undermined. When Huck tells Aunt Sally that no one but a nigger was killed and she expresses her joy at no one’s being killed, this, as the saying goes, speaks volumes—not about the inhumanity of slaves but about the blindness of a good-hearted, God- fearing woman.”


Twain punctured the self-satisfaction of people who considered themselves respectable and encourage slavery and discrimination. He also wanted to puncture the self-satisfaction of those who used the word “nigger”.


As a result, for the same reason Twain used the word I will use the word.  I don’t want to sugar coat the reality by saying something like “the N-word.” I don’t say this to offend or hurt African American people. I say to offend white Americans and Canadians. They should be offended by the truth. Not because they are responsible for what happened. But they are responsible for what they do about it. For what they think about it. And for how that reality changes them now in the here and now.