Ex Libris Kirkland

Buy it from Amazon

First Written 1919
Genre Fiction
Origin UK
Publisher Signet
ISBN-10 0451531027
ISBN-13 978-0451531025
My Copy library audiobook
First Read February 19, 2011

Tarzan of the Apes

Holy cow this is a problematic book to read out loud for the kids storytime. I love reading old books with them, as they are capable of tracking with some pretty complicated language - their listening comprehension is good, and so we've got a world of older books that are available to us. But sheesh, I had forgotten just HOW racist the book is. While the story is still a ripping yarn full of adventuure (and MURDER and CANNIBALISM and the not-quite-said-out-loud threat of bestial RAPE), I definitely did some on-the-fly editing and lots of 'OK kids let's talk about that' discussion. I was proud to hear them thinking critically about it, and even telling others 'Tarzan is interesting but he's a terrible racist who murders people all the time!'

Noted on October 17, 2020

I'm not really familiar with the Tarzan story beyond the Disney version, so discovering the original has been a real pleasure. It's a fun read, and surprising how little it follows the plotline I expected.

It's actually fairly shocking how often race comes up, and in what way. Tarzan feels instinctive distaste for his primitive black neighbors, and their dark skin and african features are often referred to negatively. On the other hand, Tarzan feels that the whites he meets are noble, with very little evidence to support it.

In other ways, the book is very 19th c. feeling - especially the multiple nested storylines. The general tone and plot structure is similar to H. Rider Haggard's African adventure novels.

Noted on February 19, 2011

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
Interested in talking about it?
Get in touch. You might also want to check out my other projects or say hello on twitter.