Award-winning author Jaqueline Woodson has penned an op-ed at New York Times about "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke" in light of that one time Daniel Handler made a racist joke about Woodson being allergic to the fruit. While presenting her with the National Book Award for her book, Brown Girl Dreaming.
In the op-ed she writes about understanding as a young girl how watermelon was employed in racist imagery:
Perhaps my allergy was actually a deep physical revulsion that came from the psychological impression and weight of the association. Whatever it was, I could no longer eat watermelon.
On Handler's "joke":
In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I've ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.
On her role as an author and a woman of color:
This mission is what's been passed down to me — to write stories that have been historically absent in this country's body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they're so afraid of. To give young people — and all people — a sense of this country's brilliant and brutal history, so that no one ever thinks they can walk onto a stage one evening and laugh at another's too often painful past.