As I have mentioned in previous posts, a book club I helped create as part of my job began in recent weeks.
Our first selection was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, much to my chagrin. I had read TKAM at age 15 as summer reading for my high school English class. My teacher spent all of about 70 minutes over two class periods asking if we had any questions and briefly touching on the racial issues in the book.
Then we moved on to other summer reading.
I don’t remember why, but I absolutely hated TKAM. I never wanted to re-read it. I didn’t want to talk about it.
So, a decade later, I was being forced to read the book again. I have a different perspective on life at this point, but I figured I would continue hating the book and be forced to fake enjoyment.
I was wrong. (Someone take a screen capture of this because I don’t say it often.)
To Kill a Mockingbird is beautifully written and touches on some very serious issues through a child’s eyes. I think I would likely have enjoyed this book as a teenager had I had someone actually guiding me through the book and teaching it, versus assuming 15-year-olds who go to a school with an extreme lack of racial diversity will understand racism and the impact it can have.
I also enjoyed this book because of how it portrays a courtroom. I have been in courtrooms during rape trials and there’s a certain drama that is incredibly difficult to articulate, yet Harper Lee manages to do it to an extent.
Her observation that juries don’t look at people they’ve convicted is also fairly accurate, based on my own personal experience.
Having the perspective and life experience of an adult, I had a much deeper understanding of To Kill a Mockingbird on this reading. I enjoyed the plot and I appreciated the naivety and unconditional love and adoration Scout and Jem had for Atticus. (It’s a little hard to understand that when you’re closer in age to the characters when you read the book the first time…)
I also read TKAM a little through the lens of someone who had read blurbs and information about Go Set a Watchman. I had heard some of the cries that Atticus was racist. And honestly, I saw bits and pieces of that in TKAM.
Atticus believes all people are good, but he took Tom Robinson’s case because of his own moral compass. Atticus treated everyone fairly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he believed everyone to be equal.
I don’t intend to read Go Set a Watchman. I didn’t like To Kill a Mockingbird to the point that the prequel is required reading.
However, I think To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely the type of book I will be willing to read with my children, guiding them through to a greater understanding at a young age than I was given. I wouldn’t want them to spend 10 pointless years hating a book for no reason…