Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who is working with NewSouth Books in Alabama to publish a combined volume of the books, said the N-word appears 219 times in "Huck Finn" and four times in "Tom Sawyer." He said the word puts the books in danger of joining the list of literary classics that Twain once humorously defined as those "which people praise and don't read."Sadly, it isn't the word that is the barrier, it's the profound lack of context that too much of our nation rejoices in when it comes to understanding our own history and literature. As the other Twain scholar in the article notes, "If we can't do that in the classroom, we can't do that anywhere." Frankly, I'm not sure that we teach Twain solely for people to get a "marvelous reading experience" --- although that is certainly one of the benefits, and I am happy that when I was reading Twain in school, my teachers were able to address quite directly and baldly the issues of race and class and prejudice as they are seen in the text, as well as the text in its historical context, and what it means to read it now.
"It's such a shame that one word should be a barrier between a marvelous reading experience and a lot of readers," Gribben said.
I somehow have a hard time seeing that happen when "nigger" is transformed to "slave", and "Injun" to "Indian". The word is the point. Replacing it is the same as taking a 3,000 calorie patty of ground fatty beef along with overly sugary bread, chemically stabilized cholesterol-laden sauces, deep-fried potatoes, and a triple-sized sugary soda drink, adding a plastic breakable toy, and declaring it a "Happy Meal".