I am anxiously awaiting the release of Harper Lee’s “other book” (virtually a mystery itself…read here) , “Go Set, A Watchman” (pre-order here) on July 14. My daughter, Natalie, has been sending me reminders for some time in an effort to make sure I pre-order a book for all the girls.
I vividly remember reading Lee’s first published book, the American classic, “To Kill A Mockingbird” (buy here) in 8th grade. My teacher Miss Marilyn Darnell, literally pushed it into my hands and said, “read it”. It changed my world and still does.
When I first read the book I lived in a predominately white world. I was not raised in a racist family, but I really didn’t have much exposure to different races, or extreme poverty. I was not totally naive to the atrocities one race could and had bestowed on another, but I had never contemplated the affect of one person lying about another and how that lie would be believed simply because of a difference in race between the accuser and the accused. I also had not thought that a jury would condemn on race, despite overwhelming evidence to satisfy the required “reasonable doubt” to cause an acquittal. I had never contemplated what this would do to an innocent man or what it would cause him to do. I believe racism and discrimination is mostly taught and is based on ignorance. I did not know this type of prejudice.
In addition, I had never been exposed this graphically to the extreme poverty during the depression and what that meant for different people. It was an eye opening, thought provoking book for me. It was also an enjoyable book for me as I saw myself much like the character Scout. Inquisitive, mischievous, persistent, and perceptive. The author made me feel (and still does) like I was on the streets of Maycomb County getting into all the different scenarios Scout and her brother, Jem seem to get themselves into. Even before I ever saw the movie years later, I envisioned Boo Radley’s place. A good author does that–takes you to another world. This is why I love good books!
Little did I know though in 8th grade, what the long term effect of that book would have on my future life. Little did I know then, that it would make me examine my “judgements” to make sure I was not biased due to race, or just differences from what I knew or was familiar with. I have not always been perfect in this, in fact I have failed miserably at times, but I have tried really hard to view people as Christ would want me to; as people with a soul that he loves. I have continued to be inspired to do this by other reminders along the way, like the lyrics of the song, “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath.
Little did I know in 8th grade that “To Kill a Mockingbird” would be one of many influences that would lead me (and our family) to take into our family two young men, of a different race, who needed a home. I will be writing more about this in my book, but looking back I can see how this book helped open my heart to the plight of others. This is a huge reason I believe that “To Kill A Mockingbird” should still be required reading. I know from experience with being a mother of teens, and being a teen sponsor, that they will not pick up this book on their own. They won’t even get past the first chapter if you don’t force them and help them to get into the story. Once they do though, they love the story. How could you not? The characters are animated. There is mystery and intrigue and human failings and fragility and compassion all wrapped into one fine story. This book helps today’s students transport themselves to another time, but it deals with an issue still alive and timely today. How do you view and treat people who are different than you? As Atticus Finch, said it best…”you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Chapter 3)
(To watch “Give me your eyes” click here)
Do you love “To Kill A Mockingbird”? How did it affect you the first time you read it? Do you plan to read “Go Set A Watchman”, the book before the book that is actually a sequel? I would love to hear about your experiences.