THE N WORD:Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why.By Jabari Asim.Houghton Mifflin.278 pp. $26
The N Word is not an easy read. That’s hardly surprising, given that the history of the word “nigger” is so brutal and violent. What is surprising, though, is how seamlessly Jabari Asim threads a history through his story of the “n word”: a history not only of the African-American experience but of the American republic itself. His title harkens back to Randall Kennedy’s Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (2002). Asim’s polite title may land a softer blow, but the substance of The N Word delivers a serious pummeling.
Asim, deputy editor of...