Thursday, August 6, 2009
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I had to include this book, Harper Lee's one and only. Narrated by young Scout, a girl growing up in small-town Alabama in the 1930s, the story wends it way through a plot chock-full of childhood play, family, growing pains, and, most important, the troubles racial tension causes. I read To Kill a Mockingbird in 9th grade and liked it. I read it in my thirties and loved it. The definitive coming of age novel, the story shows Scout maturing from child to young adult during a period of three years: she learns that some people can be dangerous, and others (often the most unlikely ones) can literally save your life. Some time after rereading this book, I also read Charles Shields' Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, garnering a few literary tidbits. Lee, still alive and living in Alabama, has never published another novel; in fact, in the decade or so following Mockingbird, a major magazine rejected some essays she submitted, calling them subpar. Talk about humiliation! Also, I seem to remember that Shields supported the theory that Lee's good friend Truman Capote had helped her write Mockingbird, but don't quote me on this. In any case, none of this drama is important because the book remains one of the best in American literature; children and adults both find value in it. It's one of those that won't waste your time, so you can read it every decade.