Daniel Handler

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for LA Times

Talk about an unfortunate event.

Author Daniel Handler, best known for his A Series of Unfortunate Events penname Lemony Snicket, has come under fire this week for a racist joke he made while hosting the National Book Awards on Wednesday.

After African-American author Jacqueline Woodson was honored with the National Book Award for young people's literature for her book Brown Girl Dreaming, Handler took to the stage and made some racially charged comments about Woodson.

"I told Jackie she was going to win, 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," Handler said to the audience.

"I said, 'You have to put that in a book,' and she said, 'You put it in a book,'" he added. "And 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 OK. This guy's fine."'"

Following a flood of backlash, Handler swiftly took to Twitter to apologize for his racist joke. "My job at last night's National Book Awards #NBAwards was to shine a light on tremendous writers, including Jacqueline Woodson," he wrote yesterday followed by, "and not to overshadow their achievements with my own ill-conceived attempts at humor. I clearly failed, and I'm sorry."

"My remarks on Wednesday night at #NBAwards were monstrously inappropriate and yes, racist. It would be heartbreaking for the #NBAwards conversation to focus on my behavior instead of great books. So can we do this?" he added. "Let's donate to #WeNeedDiverseBooks to #CelebrateJackie. I'm in for $10,000, and matching your money for 24 hours up to $100,000. Brown Girl Dreaming is an amazing novel and we need more voices like Jacqueline Woodson."

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