I didn’t know I would love TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. Early on, I was forced (assigned reading) to read the book, and it didn’t stick. The story didn’t stay with me. It was okay, but at that point, I was just reading it to write a book report. I had to want to read it. I knew it was good and about anti-racism, but at that point in my life, I think I was too self-absorbed and pretty sure I wasn’t racist, so come on, you’re preaching to the choir. Moving on.
It wasn’t until adulthood when I felt compelled to revisit classics both highly lauded in literary circles and that friends held dear. So I picked up this weathered title with it’s sprawling tree on the cover. Its character names so familiar to me, the subject matter, something I thought I knew. But just like it has for so many others, my eyes were opened again. I’m not sure how they manage to fall shut so often, my eyes, but they do, and I am grateful to all the stories that help keep me awake, awake to the injustice in the world that I both need to work to right, and that I unwittingly participate in.
What I didn’t realize was how this story was about so much more than racism. It’s about being a single parent and still doing your best to raise caring, intelligent future-adults. It’s about finding your way in this prescribed world as a female child. It’s about friendship when things get hard. It’s about understanding White privilege (though that is a new term, it’s a very old concept).
By the time I finished this book, I knew it would stay one of my favorites, too. I understood then why a friend of mine would be so moved by it, she’d name a child for its author. I understood why so many “Tom Boy” friends of mine clung to Scout as their emissary, maybe it’s why she’s named Scout- out there forging new ways to be.
I know that when I’m writing I usually have some core idea I’m working around, some kind of fundamental stick in my protagonist’s craw that has to be worked out. I don’t intend for it to be multi-layered, but sometimes it’s there anyway. I wonder if Harper Lee intended for all these components to be there. I tip my pen to her whether she did or didn’t.
Is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD one of your favorites? If it is, what made it stick for you? Are there books that you’ve read that have opened your eyes to injustices in the world?
Thanks for reading!