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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Original Fan Fiction Prequel Marks its 50th Anniversary

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It may not be entirely fair to refer to Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (WW Norton & Co.; reissuing January 25, 2016) as the first great work of fan fiction—it stands entirely on its own as a classic. But the “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of publication this week, is the grandmamma of an entire genre that has spun some classic novels. In case you missed it in English class, Wide Sargasso Sea answers one of the biggest questions from the pages of Jane Eyre—who was the woman in the attic and what drove her mad? Author Rhys wasn’t satisfied with Bronte’s explanation that all Creole women are crazy and instead spent nearly…

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The Black Writer’s Burden: Sins of Transracial Fiction

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If you pay attention, you’ll notice how often we Americans mimic a version of Black dialect and persona. We shift our speech and demeanor, usually only momentarily and often with the intent to create momentary comic relief. These fleeting moments of burlesque evoke a stylized version of how Black people are thought to express themselves, or how they might do so in mythical worlds like “Dear Ole Dixie” or “The Ghetto.” I am not referring to anything like malicious ridicule meant to wound, offend, and provoke Black people. These are an almost-unconscious series of informal expressive gestures that most Americans can be expected to employ at one time or another without giving much thought to what they are doing. And…

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