After Jacqueline Woodson accepted the National Book Award in young people's literature for her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming last night, host Daniel Handler shared a "joke" about her with the audience: she's allergic to watermelon. Get it? Because she's black. You can feel the tension in the room through your screen.

Handler—better known to most readers as the man behind Lemony Snicket—followed the racist anecdote with a disclaimer of sorts that just made the whole thing even shittier:

I told you. 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.

And I said, "You have to put that in a book." And she said, "You put it in a book." 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, Cornell West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying 'This guy's OK. This guy's fine.'"

Earlier in the evening, Handler joked about how he'd never receive a Coretta Scott King Award, a prize given to black writers of young adult fiction.

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Several writers and others in the publishing industry took him to task on Twitter.

From the way Handler sets up the story, it seems like he and Woodson are close, and that she knew that the watermelon bit was coming. Maybe she did—maybe Handler's a great guy, and they're best friends, and she thought it was hilarious—but that doesn't make the joke any less racist. There's a difference between a story you tell a friend over a glass of wine and a story you tell the audience at a national awards ceremony with writers of all colors closely watching. Publishing is whitewashed enough without Lemony Snicket's dumb jokes.

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Update: Handler apologized on Twitter.