Percival Everett's 'James' isn't the ‘Huckleberry Finn’ you read for AP English

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Jarvis DeBerry is an opinion editor for MSNBC Daily.

“James,” novelist Percival Everett’s retelling of “Huckleberry Finn,” which published Tuesday, not only makes the runaway the narrator, but it imagines him as a kind of Frederick Douglass: that is, possessed of a capacious mind, a mastery of language, a willingness to fight and a reckless burning to write his own story. James is not the Jim from Mark Twain’s late 19th century masterpiece. As forward-thinking and imaginative as Twain was, not even he could have conceived of a James.

The people being systematically exploited, the people being chained, the people being whipped, the people being raped. His decision is not unlike, say, putting the plight of enslaved Africans in the center of the story of America. In a March 9 MSNBC column, professor Koritha Mitchell pointed out how important it was to Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs that they be credited for having written the story of their lives.


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