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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome…

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (edition 2003)

by Randall Kennedy

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469935,775 (3.84)7
The explosive and controversial best-seller that rocked the U.S. is now available in the U.K. Here, distinguished legal scholar Randall Kennedy takes on American attitudes, culture and law, asking: Should the black community be able to use nigger' in ways forbidden to others? Should its use be seen as an act of violence, cost people their jobs, and books their place on library shelves? In exploring these questions, Kennedy addresses the racism embedded in our society. 'One of the most talked about books of the year' - Boston Globe 'Provocative, engaging and informative' - NY Times'… (more)
Title:Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word
Authors:Randall Kennedy
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Current Events, One Word Titles

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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy


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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Though I don't read much non-fiction nowadays, I put this book on my TBR a few years ago after reading several positive reviews. And, I am glad I did.

The author, Randall Kennedy, explores the use of the N-word in American culture through personal experience, anecdotes, court cases, and many other sources. The book is well written and thoroughly researched (25 pages for the 93 endnotes!) making it an interesting, thought-provoking read. I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 ( )
  bhabeck | Aug 17, 2016 |
Very informative. It's a word that can get you fired or killed. ( )
  JerseyGirl21 | Jan 24, 2016 |
I approached this book as I would an unexploded landmine, acknowledging the effect the title word has had over the United States, and throughout the world.

The book turned out to be more academic than I initially expected (I was looking for something akin to the popular history genre of the history of an inanimate object, fish, a particular year et al) but I found Kennedy's writing style to be far less dry than many academic tomes I've been forced to read over the years. The book is also short enough to finish in a few sittings.

Being a white man I had to be very careful as to how I physically read this in public. When people asked me what I was reading, I was very careful to say something like "This is a book by an Afro-American scholar on language and how it can subverted." Then I showed them the cover. ( )
1 vote MiaCulpa | Nov 11, 2014 |
if it's bad for one race, then it should be bad for all, yes, we have the right of free speech, but does that right give YOU the right to cause hurt & pain?
Anyway, just my option. ( )
  virg144 | Apr 11, 2012 |
A strange career indeed. This slim volume is written in what I tend to think of as "the college structure". Namely it is packed to the gills with historical and contemporary examples arranged categorically. In terms of volume most of these relate to pejorative racist usage, but, true to his byline, Kennedy is just as committed ironic, satirical and affectionate uses of the word.

As someone that abhors taboos of any sort and loves words, slurs have long occupied a difficult status for me. I don't think they should be afforded special status, off limits to all but those who would use them to attack, but I can't ignore their baggage or people's sensitivity to them. Randall seems to have a similar feeling on the matter. He certainly doesn't excuse vile usage of the titular word, but he knows that attempts to regulate it's usage, or excise it from the English language entirely are not only naive, they would undercut freedom of speech and turn victims of verbal attacks into agents of censure. As ugly as words can be it it's important to remember that freedom of speech doesn't mean much if we can pick and choose what speech it applies to.

But back to the book. Kennedy briefly looks at the origin of the word and when it picked up it's nasty connotations before diving into historical and contemporary examples or it's uses and abuses. There are some pretty nasty stories, but thankfully as you read on the breadth of the "N-word" becomes more apparent. Kennedy celebrates ironic, sarcastic and affectionate uses of the word within the black community citing people like Richard Pryor and Chris Rock as examples of people that wouldn't let the fact that white people might hear them and not understand their usage dictate how they spoke. Positive uses of "nigger" from literature, music, and comedy are reprinted and discussed.

The last segment is dedicated to controversial usage of the word and this section is done especially well. Kennedy presents the facts of the situation at hand before weighing in on the subject. This allows the reader time to think over what they think of the usage in question before Kennedy makes his case.

All and all I found this quick and edifying. It gave me fuller perspective on the use of the word and it gives me great pleasure that members of the black community are bending the word to there own purposes. Despite Kennedy's defense of non-blacks using the word in positive manners I think I'll leave wrecking this particular taboo to those better suited to it. As it is I'm perfectly happy taking the teeth out of "cunt" anyways.

The one thing I wish was included but wasn't was commentary on the recent censoring of Huckleberry Finn. Kennedy defends the book and Twain's usage of nigger in it, but this book was published years before the regualtionists excised all usage of the word from an edition of Huck Finn.

To close out, it's not the words you use, it's what you say with them. ( )
2 vote fundevogel | Sep 1, 2011 |
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