I found Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus at the thrift store, for cheap-as-free, and picked it up. Then I put it down for a few months before I really got around to finishing it.
Here’s the thing – I remember reading Uncle Remus stories when I was little, and they were great! Brer Rabbit somehow always outfoxed Brer Fox, and I loved looking at the illustrations. What I didn’t know was that Uncle Remus has been redone over and over and over again, and what I was reading was a translation of the original.
The original Uncle Remus caught me by surprise – I thought it was downright racist at first. After reading a little more about Joel Chandler Harris, however, I realized this is more along the lines of Grimm’s Fairy Tales than a racial stereotype – Harris recorded the stories as he heard them, from the mouths of former slaves. And while a White-recorded book of Black mythology is going to have a bias, I feel like this collection is still historically important.
But, for heaven’s sake, get a new translation. I had to read each story painstakingly out loud (which included some foul language on accident), because Harris spelled things phonetically… sort of. It’s all written in Ebonics – but it’s 150 years old, so there’s a lot of phrases, pronunciations, and customs that just don’t make any sense. My recommendation: find a nice, well-illustrated copy that’s written in plain English. ♦