4. To Kill a Mockingbird

by Nelle Harper Lee

What can I say about a book that's been discussed by millions over the past half century? I'll just get personal.

This is yet another book I didn't read when it was assigned in school. It's easy to remember this because I didn't read any of the books assigned, in junior high or high school. I've made up for this lack of reading since and in many cases I am glad to have these first experiences as an adult. My adolescent resistance has merit.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that I enjoyed immensely over this past two weeks. Ironically, I read it along with my seventh graders, who were also reading it for the first time. They got a kick out of knowing that I knew about as much as they did each step of the way. Our discussions were great as we shared our insights as equals.

I am usually reluctant to call a thing an American masterpiece, but what the hell. In this case it fits. It is so beautifully written: the music of deep south dialects, the charge of intensely felt grief over a dying way of life, the layers stomach turning racism, the awakening eyes of a young girl, the shared pain of an economic depression, and the fantastic suspense surrounding rape, homicide... Christ it's got everything. Best part, though, are the kids and their innocent, loving obsession with the mysterious Boo Radley.

I highly recommend this book, even though everyone as probably read it when they were supposed to.


Jarrett said...

i'm quite shocked that you hadn't read it in grad school.

and way to be, man, about telling your students you were reading it with them. i have heard so many stories about english teachers being one chapter ahead of the kids and treating it like some kind of State Secret.

beemused said...

I never read this book either, and I missed out on a few classics in grade school. but I'll put this on my list. it's always good to turn to a classic every so often!