Author Daniel Handler, best known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, has again apologized for a racial joke he told at the National Book Awards, and is matching donations to an organization that promotes diversity in children’s literature.
Handler apologized Thursday after making a joke the night before about author Jacqueline Woodson’s allergy to watermelons. Woodson, who won the National Book Award for young people’s literature for her book “Brown Girl Dreaming,” is African American.
Friday morning on Twitter, Handler expanded on his original apology, writing: “My remarks on Wednesday night at #NBAwards were monstrously inappropriate and yes, racist. ... Let’s donate to #WeNeedDiverseBooks to #CelebrateJackie. I’m in for $10,000, and matching your money for 24 hours up to $100,000.”
We Need Diverse Books is, in the words of its organizers, “a grass-roots organization dedicated to advocating and supporting non-majority narratives.” The campaign was started earlier this year after BookCon, an offshoot of the trade convention BookExpo America, invited 30 writers to a panel on children’s literature, all of whom were white.
According to the group’s fundraising page, "[S]ince then we’ve become so much more than just a hashtag. We’ve incorporated and become an organization dedicated to creating tangible change within the publishing industry, and have been thrilled at the support we’ve received from organizations across the world.” Woodson is a member of the We Need Diverse Books advisory board.
Handler’s offer to match donations seems to have taken off. Friday morning, We Need Diverse Books team member Corinne Duyvis, a fantasy novelist, tweeted: “In about three and a half hours since the announcement, #SupportWNDB has already raised nearly $20k to #CelebrateJackie. THANK YOU.”
Handler has agreed to match any donations up to $100,000 given before 5 a.m. Pacific Saturday.
Authors on Twitter seemed to approve of Handler’s apology and donation. Los Angeles author Laila Lalami noted: “I appreciate [Handler’s] acknowledgment. Perfection is not human. But grace and forgiveness are.” And novelist Celeste Ng tweeted at Handler: “Thank you for that sincere apology & supporting WNDB. You turned a mistake into a great example & help for a good cause.”