Daniel Handler Apologizes Again, Raises Money for WNDB

Posted on November 23, 2014

Cover of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Daniel Handler doubled down on his apology to National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson for making a watermelon joke after her acceptance speech for her young adult novel Brown Girl Dreaming.

Handler issued another apology on Twitter, saying "My remarks on Wednesday night at #NBAwards were monstrously inappropriate and yes, racist. It would be heartbreaking for the #NBAwards conversation to focus on my behavior instead of great books. Brown Girl Dreaming is an amazing novel and we need more voices like Jacqueline Woodson."

He also put his money where his foot was. On Friday he donated $10,000 to We Need Diverse Books fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. For 24 hours after his donation he matched all donations to WNDB's fundraiser, up to $100,000. He tweeted, "So can we do this? Let's donate to #WeNeedDiverseBooks to #CelebrateJackie. I'm in for $10,000, and matching your money for 24 hours up to $100,000. -DH"

His appeal worked. WNDB confirmed that it has now raised far more than its original fundraising goal and has raise $169,000. WNDB confirmed that Handler will be sending the organization a check for $110,000 on Monday.

Publishers' Weekly managed to track down Ms. Woodson, who had remained silent during the scandal. She took a break from the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Washington, D.C. to email PW a response to Handler's comments that caused such a furor at the National Book Awards.

She said, "I'd rather continue to move the dialogue forward in a positive light rather than a negative one. This is a moment when our country can grow and learn and better understand each other. It would be nice to put the energy back where it should be - on the books and what the books are saying and doing." She then went on to praise the other NBA winners and their works. She noted that her book Brown Girl Dreaming is about "what this conversation should be -- a coming to understanding across lines of race."

PW also talked to WNDB president Ellen Oh, who said she was "very impressed" by Handler's prompt and thorough apology. She said he contacted her organization about making the donation before he made his announcement.She said, "It takes a big man to admit that his remarks were racist. Most people can't -- especially publicly." She was grateful for his donation but noted that the donation was not the best part of his apology. Instead it was "the recognition of the power of words, and the hurt they can cause."

We have never seen anyone in a similar situation give a faster and more thorough apology. Handler seems to really get what he did and why it was so inappropriate.

Photo: Nancy Paulsen Books