Imagine my surprise yesterday when the headmaster of my school handed me an advanced copy of Kevin Weeks’s and Ann Dewitt’s new book, Entangled in Freedom. Apparently, Mr. Weeks decided to send a copy to my school along with a letter claiming that I had “slandered my literary work without conducting a formal book review.” You may remember my recent post in which I offer a few thoughts about the book’s description. This was not meant as a formal review in any sense, though a number of people expressed their concern that I should have waited until I read the book. What is interesting, however, is the nature of Mr. Weeks’s overall complaint against me. In addition to the letter he included my school’s statement of its core values, which reflects a commitment to diversity. Apparently, my comments about the book reflects my lack of understanding of diversity as seen in this particular story about black Confederates. Even more interesting is the following accusation:
Does St. Anne’s – Belfield School concur with Mr. Levin that African-American history, regardless of how controversial, should be removed from historical museums and the voices of African-Americans, as mine, be silenced?
I simply have no idea how to respond to such an accusation. No one is trying to silence anyone and this has nothing to do with a lack of commitment to diversity. What it has to do with is pointing out history and historical fiction that is fundamentally flawed based on the historical record. Now that I have a copy of the book I can take a closer look at the content of the story. Last night I tried to sit down to read the first few pages and somehow I managed to finish the first ten pages. It’s much worse than I thought. I understand that historical fiction tends to play looser with the historical record and I understand that children’s books must operate on a simpler conceptual level, but this is ridiculous. If I somehow find that I can make it through, I will give the book a formal review.