The children’s author Daniel Handler has apologized for an “ill-conceived” joke he made about the black American writer Jacqueline Woodson while hosting the National Book Awards.
When Woodson collected her prize for young people’s literature, Handler, who writes as Lemony Snicket, joked about her being allergic to watermelon.
“My job at last night’s National Book Awards #NBAwards was to shine a light on tremendous writers, including Jacqueline Woodson and not to overshadow their achievements with my own ill-conceived attempts at humor. I clearly failed, and I’m sorry,” Handler said on Twitter.
David Perry, who blogs on language, power and privilege, called on Handler to apologise for telling a joke about watermelon, an image fraught with racist history, during a moment that marked the height of Woodson’s literary achievement.
“For a powerful white author to make a watermelon joke when handing out an award to a black author, the message is – no matter what you write, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, you will always be a BLACK author, not just an author,” Perry wrote.
Though Perry doesn’t believe this was Handler’s intention, unfortunately, he wrote, it was the effect.