By Quin Hillyer at the Washington Examiner;

It’s easy to make the usual criticisms against the latest, clueless school district removing the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from its curriculum – but this time, let’s dig deeper.

School officials in Biloxi, Miss., explained that language in the book – presumably the “N-word” used (approximately 50 times) as it would have been in Mockingbird‘s 1930s-era Alabama – “makes people uncomfortable.”

This seems the umpteenth installment of a near-annual kerfuffle in which, somewhere in the United States, Mockingbird is removed or “banned,” after which all the pundits quite rightly opine that there is great value in finding appropriately nuanced ways to make children confront “uncomfortable” realities.

As it so happens, this very week Liberty Island Media releases my first novel, called Mad Jones, Heretic, available at Amazon, in which the N-word appears 11 times (and 28 times total throughout the trilogy). When writing the trilogy, I did not worry about whether the word would “make people uncomfortable,” much less intend to cause discomfort (or not to do so). I did it because, in terms of the plot and fictional characters involved, that was how one particular character would talk if he had the personality and flaws he must have so that the plot makes sense.

A novelist strives for verisimilitude. In one respect, it should be just that simple.

Nonetheless, today’s world doesn’t let it be so simple. Almost every “fault line” emanating from literary use of the N-word also touches, deep down, some broader and perhaps unstable tectonic plates in our culture.

Obviously, any time the N-word is used, the tectonic plate of race can be shaken. These days, though, that’s certainly not the only part of the cultural foundation that’s subject to a subduction zonetouched by the N-word dispute.

For example, debate now rages over the extent and even the wisdom of First Amendment speech protections, with a growing minority (at least) of college students showing either ignorance or hostility toward its basic premises – and with people of my generation appalled at what seems to us to be the collegians’ sheer benightedness….

[The rest of the column is here.]


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