KUOW has posted audio of mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck's awkward reading Monday night at the downtown library. All the candidates were asked by Friends of Seattle Public Library to read from one of their favorite books.
Steinbrueck (master of the obscure ... he's screening a documentary called Buddy: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Mayor at the Northwest Film Forum/PubliCola Mayoral Movies series next month) read from a book called The Conjure Woman by late 19th Century African American writer Charles Chestnutt. (Wikipedia tells me that the book was turned in to a 1926 "race film"—movies made outside the Hollywood system aimed at black audiences—but has been lost.)
One of the characters in the book, Uncle Julius, is written in a 19th Century African American dialect, and Steinbreuck went for it.
"Yas, honey," ’lows Dan, "en you gwine ter feel fus’ rate ’long ez you sticks ter me.
We asked him what he was thinking.
Here's what he said (in a written statement):
My intent was to draw attention to the importance of Juneteenth and to an African American author and political activist of the period. Charles Chesnutt was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking authors of his day. His novels and short essays explore the complexities of race and society in the south after the Civil War.
I read the passage the way it was written, to an audience of readers and book-lovers. If it makes people uncomfortable, then we should be talking about it.