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‘Lemony Snicket’ author apologizes for ‘watermelon’ joke at National Book Awards

Jacqueline Woodson attends 2014 National Book Awards. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Author Jacqueline Woodson won the young people’s literature prize at the National Book Awards on Wednesday night for her novel “Brown Girl Dreaming.” The day after the ceremony, the story making waves? An incredibly ill-advised joke by awards host Daniel Handler, who marveled that Woodson, who is black, is allergic to watermelon.

Handler, author of the popular “Lemony Snicket” novels, told this brief anecdote to the crowd after Woodson’s victory. “I told Jackie she was going to win,” Handler said. “And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned about her this summer — which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.”

There was some quiet rumbling from the crowd. Handler continued that he urged Woodson to put that fact in a book, but then she told him that he should put it in a book.

“I said, ‘I’m only writing a book about a black girl who’s allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornel West, Toni Morrison and Barack Obama saying ‘This guy’s okay, this guy’s fine,'” Handler added.

Twitter backlash was harsh after the clip (captured by C-SPAN) started making the rounds on Thursday morning. Handler quickly apologized.

Here were some the reactions: