More Questions + Event

You’re unlikely to get anything sensible out of me for awhile. This will be brief. First, thanks for all the responses yesterday. That was truly fascinating.

Second, we recently finished watching Fullmetal Alchemist and Read or Die and LOVED them both with a fiery burning passion. Thanks everyone who recommended them. What should we watch next? And why do you recommend it?

Third, without googling how many have you heard of Joel Chandler Harris? And what do you know about him? And where are you from? (I suspect how old you are is pertinent also.)

Thank you!

If you’re in NYC you can see me and Scott reading this Saturday:

Justine Larbalestier, Bennett Madison,
Scott Westerfeld, & Cecily von Ziegesar
Reading and Q&A
12:30PM-1:15PM, Saturday, 10 April
Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street, Second floor
(between Madison & Fifth Ave.)

The price of admission? Your donation of two or more new or gently used board books through grade 12.

I’ll be reading from my 1930s book.



  1. Kate on #

    I have never heard of Joel Chandler Harris.

  2. Justine on #

    Where are you from, Kate?

  3. Clix on #

    Didn’t he write the Uncle Remus tales? I’m from PA.

  4. Travis on #

    I loved the original Fullmetal Alchemist, but the new Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is SO much better. It follows the manga whereas the original is just based on the manga.

  5. cristina on #

    I have no idea who Joel Chandler Harris is.

    *runs to google*

  6. beth on #

    I am *very* aware of who Joel Chandler Harris is. I live in North Carolina, though, and was raised on Uncle Remus tales (these were tales me father would read to me as a very small child; I have most of them memorized as a consequence of that). Additionally, though, I majored in English and took a Southern Lit course, so I may be a bit abnormally aware of him, so to say. 🙂

  7. beth on #

    I should mention, I guess, that I’m 28, but the late child of a late child (meaning my father is particularly old and still very much a part of that generation where these tales were quite acceptable, and from a very Southern rural area. To illustrate this: my father remembers when his childhood home was first fitted with indoor plumbing–he was 10. My husband was shocked to see that my childhood books also include the Sambo and Epandimanoumous tales as well–and those were milder affairs than others in my house.)

  8. Hannah on #

    I know who he is but only because I loved Song of the South when I was younger! I’ve never read anything by him and only know what Disney presented me of the Uncle Remus stories. But being from the UK I do not feel like I should feel bad about this!

  9. Justine on #

    Hannah: I had never heard of him either. No one should feel bad about lack of knowledge—for it is so easily remedied.

    You should read Jeremy Love’s Bayou which is a brilliant brilliant brilliant take on Song of the South.

  10. Ley on #

    No response to the first question, though in regards to the second: Nope. Maybe if you would let me Google him (gosh, Justine!) I would know by face or from what he’s done, but just off the top of my head I don’t.

    As this may be pertinent: I just turned 24 and live in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

  11. arkessian on #

    Yes, I’ve heard of Joel Chandler Harris — Uncle Remus.

    I’m in the UK.

  12. Sarah N. Fisk on #

    I’ve never heard of him. I’m 26 and was a military brat so I grew up in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Guam.

    But it probably doesn’t help that my parents don’t read. Anything. At all.

  13. Pam Adams on #

    Yes, I have. Usian, 49, and a reader from childhood. My dad would buy children’s books from the local thrift store, so I read lots of old kid’s lit as a child. (Example: original Bobbsey twins from 1910)

  14. Mike on #

    Harris wrote the Uncle Remus stories. That’s all I know. I’m on the far side of 50.

  15. Emmy on #

    The name Joel Chandler Harris was not familiar to me, so I googled him (yes, I cheated). I do remember the Uncle Remus stories, but I haven’t read them since I was six or seven, which would be why I didn’t remember the name. I’m 17 and from Georgia. My grandmother read me the Uncle Remus stories when I was little.

  16. rockinlibrarian on #

    Joel Chandler Harris: I recognized the name but couldn’t place it except for a vague sense of racial controversy involved– then I skimmed the comments before actually typing this so I could say “Oh, yeah, that’s it.” I’m from PA, 32, and a huge children’s literature/history thereof geek, so any knowledge I have picked up on this topic is from that last bit.

    No watching suggestions– I don’t watch anything but preschool shows on PBS.

    And speaking of yesterday’s comments, I just noticed that I immediately said I’m from PA, as opposed to The US or even spelling out Pennsylvania!

  17. Lizabelle on #

    I vaguely recognised the name, but did not know why until I read the comments. (I’m from the UK via Australia, FWIW.)

    As for what you should watch next: try Battlestar Galactica if you haven’t seen it yet! Brilliant, nail-biting telly stuffed full of kick-ass female characters, and replete with difficult political/ethical/moral choices.

  18. toxicfur on #

    Yes. I’m 35 years old, and I grew up in North Carolina. My mom had a book of Uncle Remus stories that I wasn’t allowed to read on my own (I loved to read, and this was torture) — instead, she doled them out one at a time to my brothers and me before bed. I remember that I missed one of the stories because I was being punished — I have no idea what I did, but it was just about the worst punishment ever. BTW, I was thrilled to learn when I was older that many of the “Uncle Remus” tales were actually Anansi the Spider stories. After reading Neil Gaiman’s book “Anansi Boys,” I spent a fair amount of time researching the Anansi stories, and they’re fabulous. I love that sort of thing.

  19. Jennifer on #

    I read the entire folklore section of our library when I was about 14 and discovered Julius Lester’s adaptations of the Uncle Remus stories. I’m originally from Texas and I’m 27. Something that intrigues me even more….do you call hardcovers board books? Board books here refers to those thick cardboard books for very small children that can take chewing, throwing, and other hard knocks. I am intrigued.

  20. Jennifer on #

    I should add that I’m not just from Texas, I’m from Austin which is a whole different thing. And I looked up the “original” Joel Chandler Harris books, but was bored by the heavy dialect. I liked Lester’s adaptations better.

  21. Lizabelle on #

    Whoops, just realised that Read or Die and Full Metal Alchemist are both anime, so I’m guessing you were after more of that? In which case, just ignore my Battlestar Suggestion. 🙂

  22. Angie Gatlin on #

    I’m from Pennsylvania. I’ve never heard of him. I’m 29.

    Much love!!

  23. wandering-dreamer on #

    I was a little puzzled when I saw that you had finished FMA since the anime/manga is still on-going, and then realized you must’ve meant the first version. And I must confess to drawing a blank of what to recommend to you, I’ve seen plenty of stuff but have no idea what you would want to see.
    No idea who he is (19, lives in the Eastern-ish area of the US).

  24. click on #

    Joel Chandler Harris wrote the Uncle Remus stories (never read those) and Brer Rabbit! (I think. I loved those when I was little.) That’s pretty much all I know. I’m from California, USA and I’m twenty. I feel obligated to say that the only reason I know this much is because the book I was reading today mentioned him, “The Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson.

    I recommend “Last Exile”, because I loved FMA and RoD as well, so we might share tastes. Also, Last Exile has a fairly heavy steam-punk vibe to it and an amazing soundtrack.

  25. Susannah on #

    I’m Australian (32) with a USian father (72)… who read me Uncle Remus stories when I was small. I could tell you all about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox – but the name Joel Chandler Harris rang not a single solitary bell with me.

  26. Justine on #

    Lizabelle: I’m only looking for anime recs. To be honest did not like Battlestar Galactica. Thought it jumped the shark massively at the end of season two. But my friend Robin Wasserman adores it for some crazy reason 🙂 You should go bond with her on her blog.

  27. Susan on #

    I am familiar with Joel Chandler Harris; I’m 52 and from Texas. Like previous commenters, I enjoyed the Julius Lester adaptations Jump!, Jump Again!, and I can’t remember the name of the third one.

    I LOVE the new Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (esp. episodes 10 and 19) and have a major crush on Maes Hughes. Even after watching the original series, you should go ahead and watch the second–there’s enough differences that it feels like an alternative history version rather than a retread. I’m also watching a series called Monster, based on a manga of the same name by Naoki Urasawa. It’s a multi-layered psychological thriller. Years ago, a brilliant surgeon was called upon to save a little boy with a severe brain injury. The boy grows up and becomes a serial killer, though it’s the doctor who is blamed for it. I like the artwork–the colors are muted and the lines are curvier.

  28. Justine on #

    Susan: I’m a huge Urasawa fan. Didn’t realise there was an anime of Monster. Must check it out.

  29. lily on #

    Born and bred in a briar patch, brer fox! You learn something new every day – I’ve only found out who JC Harris is from reading the comments, but one of my most vivid childhood memories is my grandpa reading the Uncle Remus stories to me and my brother in the 1970s in the UK. He had a very posh RP British accent so it must have sounded quite weird, but we were little and didn’t know any better! I guess I was never interested in who wrote them, I just thought of them as being my grandpa’s stories. Now I’m wondering why he had the book and where from.

    Why do you want to know?

    I really recommend FMA manga – I think it’s better than the anime (especially the female characters) – and still on-going. And I recommend Mushishi (anime and manga), although it has nothing in common whatsoever with FMA. It’s strange and beautiful and seems slight but really sticks in the mind.

    will have to check out Read or Die now.

  30. Jennmonk on #

    Glad you liked FMA and ROD. Definitely check out FMA: Brotherhood. Also, try Ghost Hunt. The first three episodes aren’t the best, but the rest are kind of creepy and funny, all at the same time. Maybe also, Tsubasa and Jyu-Oh-Sei for the fantasy and sci-fi kicks.

  31. Victoria Janssen on #

    I have heard of Joel Chandler Harris. I visited his house when I was a kid. Also the cool briar patch in the back (not sure if that was grown later as a tourist attraction).

  32. quilzas on #

    Was that the Read or Die OVA (the 3-part one) that you watched? That’s the one I’ve seen and I utterly adore it. I’ve not watched the other episodes they put out as I’ve heard they’re not as good.

    As for followup anime.. hmm. Steamboy is excellent. I also greatly enjoyed Blood The Last Vampire.

  33. Mac on #

    How utterly weird — I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this guy before reading his name in your blog, yet I’m quite familiar with the stories. (I am Caribbean American and from New York City.)

  34. Kaethe on #

    Joel Chandler Harris wrote the Uncle Remus stories that he had heard as folktales. Because Song of the South isn’t available to view, most people don’t know about Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, although I think the tar baby story is the best known. Harris lived in the mountains of NC, where one can tour his home. I am 44, living in NC. I’ve read some of the stories aloud to my kids but they don’t care much for them. I think the dialect makes them hard for many to read and/or understand. I think Harris is guilty of appropriation, but since the subtext of the stories is slaves mocking slaveholders (with an element of Trickster tales from African folklore), I don’t think it’s a problem.

    Now I’m going to have to go google and see how much I got right, if any.

  35. Lizabelle on #

    I worked out the anime bit belatedly – apologies for being redundant!

    *wanders off to stalk Robin Wasserman*

    PS – thank you for mentioning Bayou by Jeremy Love. I got halfway through it today, and thought it was brilliant (in a hurty kind of way). Will be finishing, bookmarking, recommending to friends etc.

  36. Kaethe on #

    Well, except for mixing up his house with Thomas Wolfe’s I didn’t do too badly. I’ve lived in both Georgia and North Carolina is my excuse.

  37. Libby on #

    Uncle Remus. I’m from the Northeastern US, and I’m almost 50, but I think I learned his name more recently from my Missourian in-laws. My husband (from Missouri and California) was brought up on the stories–I was not, though I know them. I think Harris was also a newspaperman. And when I scroll back up through the comments I’m sure I’ll remember other things I used to know about him but have forgotten…

  38. Kaethe on #

    Libby, my husband is also from Missouri, and is also a big fan from way back.

  39. kittee on #

    Joel Chandler Harris collected the Uncle Remus stories, and various other Southern African/American stories. They were read to me (including the scary witch stories) when I was a little girl in Mississippi by a very very very very old lady whose grandparents had been slaves, and she could do the dialect perfectly. I’m 48.
    Also, I still have the book she read, and can induce my 77-year-old mother to read from it occasionally, but have never succeeded in recording her. She’s very shy,more’s the pity.

  40. Krystle on #

    Emma: A Victorian Romance is a beautiful anime that I’ve not long ago watched. It’s not illicit, but is beautifully drawn and makes me think of Emma, but about a Victorian 18th century maid. If you would like that, it’s also a beautiful manga, but unfortunately went out of print as of this last year because it was so popular, but the author didn’t have it reprinted. One copy of that manga costs almost $50 bunks new.

    But you can watch the anime on YouTube, beautiful story.

  41. Kilks on #

    I have never heard of Joel Chandler Harris. I’m 23 and from Boston, MA.

  42. Cy on #

    Ooh, FMA~~ one of the greatest anime series in recent years. I guess you could take a look at the re-imagining of it that’s currently airing in Japan/on Cartoon Network (Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood). But I haven’t seen it myself so I can’t vouch for it exactly. ^^;

    Other quality series I’d HIGHLY recommend:

    1. Hikaru no Go (please only watch in Japanese; English dub does it NO justice) – quintessential shonen “sports” manga that manages to be much deeper and beautiful/poignant than the genre suggests. Unforgettable and realistic-but-likable characters, phenomenal voice acting (in JP), and one of the most pitch-perfect, well-paced stories I’ve ever come across in any medium.

    2. Gankutsuou – The Count of Monte Cristo re-imagined as a space-age punk opera and told from the POV of Albert, the ingenue son of the villainous general who ruined Edmond Dantes’s life. That first ep is one of the most compelling I’ve ever seen in any show. *__*

    3. Le Chevalier D’eon – A gorgeously animated and directed “murder mystery” with many supernatural twists, set in 18th century France (pre-revolution). Story in brief: When the young nobleman D’eon de Beaumont finds his elder sister Lia’s corpse floating in a boat on the Seine, he embarks on a journey to find her killer that spans all of Europe, from the dazzling courts of Versailles and St Petersburg to the occult underground of England. Fantastic dialogue and plot twists you will NOT expect. Written by the great award-winning Japanese SF author Ubukata Tow.

    4. Fafner (aka “Soukyuu no Fafner”) – also written by Ubukata Tow; one of the most novel and character-driven entries in the “apocalyptic mecha” genre begun by Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the near future, Tatsumiya Island is a sleepy island community where all the kids go to the same high school and life is simple and idyllic. That is, until the day a haunting voice suddenly interrupts every radio and television broadcast on the island with the mysterious question: “Anata wa soko ni imasu ka?” One answer is all it takes for the alien force of the Festum to come raining down on Tatsumiya, bent on “assimilating” all its inhabitants. But the adults on this island have a secret that they’ve been keeping from their kids: the island is a manmade military base built to fight the Festum, who have actually been at war with the human race (unbeknownst to the kids) for over 30 years—and Japan, an early casualty of the war, no longer even exists. The only kid who knew all of this ahead of time is the mysterious loner Soushi, whose complicated past with our hero, Kazuki, is among the painful secrets that get dragged out over the course of the devastating fight for the island and the very survival of its inhabitants. Very good script (err, after about the first 2 eps–please, please don’t let the strange dialogue and pacing problems in ep 1 turn you off from the rest–it’s REALLY worth watching), moving story, and original/extremely well-acted characters!

    5. Supernatural – okay, not an anime, but since you guys just watched FMA and are full of “brother roman,” SPN came out the year after FMA’s run and was (I suspect) heavily influenced by the core relationship of the Elric bros and their desperate plight. SPN does all that with a pair of ghost/demon/supernatural entities-hunting brothers and has some unexpectedly excellent writing and acting in it (and the bros’ relationship is just GOLD). Also gets into some very Angel Sanctuary-esque angel/demonology in later seasons. Highly recommended even if you’re not a fan of TV shows in general~

    And, sorry, I have no idea who Joel Chandler Harris is… sorry. ^^;;;

  43. Cy on #

    Oh! I should add my demographic info for the JCH survey, shouldn’t I? Female, 26, from Orange County, CA.

  44. PixelFish on #

    I grew up in Utah, I’m 33, and I know who Joel Chandler Harris is, because I too watched Song of the South as a child. (Approximately age 10ish, I think, when Disney permitted a small re-release–the last time it was ever shown in public, I think. Trivia about Song of the South has also appeared in my old Disney trivia book, but I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned in Disney publications for quite some time.)

    I checked out the book from the library, but found the dialect heavy going and stopped. So I can make no comment regarding the source material (the oral stories the Brer Rabbit seems to have been derived from and Harris’s take on them….but I can say that Song of the South is pretty damn racist from what I remember. I just never realised at the time.

    Justine: Anime recs: Have you been through Trigun yet? It starts off goofy, but I like how the story develops. Also, Madeline Ashby is starting a review of Cowboy Bebop over at, and while I had never gotten hooked on Bebop the way friends had, her analysis is making me want to take a second look.

  45. Jessica on #

    Anime recs: I second Monster and ESPECIALLY Hikaru No Go. God, I love that anime. Should watch it again… A friend of mine also really loved Gankutsuou, so you can consider that half a rec, maybe?

    As for JCH, the name didn’t ring a bell, and neither does the name of Uncle Remus, honestly. Brer Rabbit, on the other hand, was a huge and memorable part of my childhood. Also increasing my awareness of the Brers and not JCH, I just read Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston, which contains a lot of African American folktales unadapted. I’m not sure whether Uncle Remus was a creation of JCH as the Wikipedia article is unclear.

  46. Jessica on #

    Oh, and I am a 23-year-old white woman and have always lived in California.

  47. Jennifer on #

    Justine, What a great expression: “Jumped the shark.” I’d never heard it before (I live in Los Angeles, which might be the reason.).

    In exchange for that little tidbit, I’ll trade you another fun idiom I learned this very night while spending time with a sports fan from D.C.

    “Caught lightning in a bottle.”

    As in: The Gonzaga basketball team was terrible for decades. But recently, the team seems to have caught lightning in a bottle, making it to the sweet sixteen championship round several times in the past few years.

  48. Hannah on #

    Watch Cowboy Bepop or Trigun. Cowboy’s more popular, I guess, and arguably more mature, but I have an undying love for Trigun.

  49. Hannah on #

    Oh, and never heard of the guy. 17, Sydney.

  50. Eugene on #

    I’m so glad you enjoyed FMA–it’s one of my favorite anime series. I’ve only just started the new version. Did you watch the three-episode Read or Die or the full TV series (which I think is called Read or Dream)? I recommend a short series called Haibane Renmei, which has some of the best worldbuilding. You might also try the post-apocalyptic Now and Then, Here and There. See if you can find a short series called Gunbuster (not the second one, I haven’t seen it yet). A very old show but a fan favorite is Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. And Scott might enjoy the film Steamboy. Clearly I can go on and on…

  51. John H on #

    Having been born and raised in the Atlanta area, I know quite a bit about Joel Chandler Harris. His Uncle Remus stories were normal grade-school reading when I was a kid, and I can remember the field trip we took to the Wren’s Nest in Atlanta.

    I understand the criticism his stories receive today — the blatant stereotypes are unacceptable by today’s norms. The only excuse is that in his day such portrayals were fairly common.

    As for “Jumping the Shark”, for those who don’t know where this phrase comes from, it refers to the episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumps a shark on water skis. It’s considered the moment where Happy Days started going downhill. And so when something “Jumps the Shark”, it’s hit a similar turning point…

  52. quilzas on #

    Oh.. and as for ‘who is JCH’ and all that.. No clue until I started reading this thread. Though I am familiar with the Uncle Remus and some of the stories.

    I’m 34, female, white, from Maine.

  53. Lunamoth on #

    I’m 37 in May, from Pennsylvania, and I read the Uncle Remus stories in my grade school library. Brer fox, Brer Rabbit, all that fun stuff in the original form before Disney… well… Disnified it.

  54. Elise on #

    I know who he is, but I’m from Georgia and even have relatives in Eatonton, so I’ve been to the little museum they have multiple times. I’m 25.

    As for anime, I second Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Haibane Renmei, Monster, and Gankutsuou.

  55. wandering-dreamer on #

    Actually, after seeing all these comments I remembered that I am actually a little familiar with the Br’er Rabbit stories. I remember seeing them preformed once when I was small (7 or so in a mall that was probably in Southern Maryland, if not it was in DC) and it was one of those things that seemed a bit odd at the time, I forgot, and remembered recently going “Waaaiiittt a minute.” Going to ask my mom if she remembers the show any better than I did, my cousin and brother would’ve been too young to really remember it as well.
    As for anime, everyone else here has excellent tastes but one show I haven’t seen recommended yet is Moribito. In the US it’s under the title Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit although it doesn’t look like it has an Australian release. The story revolves around Balsa, a spear wielder who has charged herself to save 8 people to make up for the 8 people who were killed so that she could survive as a child. Her last person is a prince who appears to have been possessed by a water demon and whose father has tried to have him assassinated twice now. The story moves a bit slower than the book does (which is released in the US with a gorgeous treatment) so it alternates between the politics of the realm and the everyday life as Balsa tries to teach the prince how to live his life as a commoner. The characters are realistic, understandable, and the artwork in the show is stunning (Studio Ghibli quality for 26 episodes!) with some of the best animated fight scenes in all of anime. So, I suggest giving it a whirl, if you can stop by a Walmart in the US they have the complete set there for $30 (full disclosure, it’s a pretty ugly boxset but it’s a steal) and the first two original books have been published by Scholastic.

  56. Jenne on #

    I know him as the author of Uncle Remus–I’m from CA and I’m 34. I had an Uncle Remus book as a kid but I don’t think I knew he was the author then–I’m a librarian now and have probably heard the name mentioned since the book(s?) have been controversial.

  57. Sibylle on #

    I had never heard of him. I’m 21. My parents never read and I didn’t read anything before turning 17 apart from Harry Potter. I’ve tried to read some books from the children’s section of the library since (which I assume is where I would find the Uncle Remus stories) but I’ve never stumbled upon him (my one real discovery was Noel Streatfeild when I was 19).
    Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but is this question somehow connected to your reading of Slavery by Another Name by Blackmon?

  58. Cy on #

    Ooh, just had to second wandering-dreamer’s rec of Moribito–Balsa is SO friggin’ cool (naturally, this show is from Production I.G., the folks who brought us butt-kicking Major Motoko Kusanagi in “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex,” etc), and the animation of the fights + the breathtaking backgrounds are truly on par with a Ghibli feature-length film. I highly rec as well.

    Also, just wanted to throw in one more big rec I still can’t believe I forgot last time– CODE GEASS. I know Scott, at least, has seen Death Note and liked it. Well, then you MUST check out Lelouch, the marvellously Machiavellian hero/revolutionary/ULTIMATE MASTERMIND of Code Geass. He’s like Light Yagami with a bigger flair for the dramatic and an infinitely more multi-faceted personality. Where Light was kind of megalomanical and cared for nothing and no one but his ideal, Lelouch still has a full range of emotions and people he sincerely cares for, making his story of betrayal and rebellion all the more heart-rending. The things he dares are just breathtaking, and the ways he gets himself out of these huge jams are both believable and exhiliratingly unforeseeable. The show is in 2 seasons, so please MAKE SURE YOU’VE GOT DISC 1 OF SEASON 2 READY–you’ll NEED it after the last ep of season 1, believe me~

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