Banned Books Week: Harper Lee's Classic "To Kill a Mockingbird"

BlogHer Original Post

In celebration and acknowledgement of Banned Books Week we'll be featuring some of the books that have been banned or challenged across America this week. We'll look at why they were banned and why readers have found them important. Some of the titles might surprise you.

Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird might be my favorite book that I was never forced to read in high school. My best friend had a different English teacher in high school than I did and her class read it. I remember many people in her class complaining about it. I didn't read it until I was in my 20s and it was instant love. I fell for To Kill a Mockingbird. Hard.

to kill a mockingbird harper leeIf you were to ask me what it was about To Kill a Mockingbird that I loved so much I'm not sure I could tell you. There's an innocence there, yes. I rather like Scout's stubbornness and loyalty. There was just something about it that spoke to me. I think that like That Clever Chick, Too Kill a Mockingbird redeemed the term "classic" for me.

Some books are classics seemingly only because people are continuously forced to read them. It’s like group bonding through shared suffering, and has little to do with the actual merits of the book (I’m looking at you Great Gatsby, and Madame Bovary). This is not one of those books.

I think also, as Stef, who also didn't read it in high school, states, it's Scout's voice that really does it.

This book is considered by pretty much everyone to be Required Reading for Americans, and rightfully so. It captures the innocence of childhood from the perspective of a somewhat jaded, ridiculously intelligent adult, looking back on her life and wondering how she coped with trauma so matter-of-factly. The narrative perspective of Scout Finch, feisty tomboy, is one that I wish I could hear in other books.

While I shake my head anytime I hear that books are being challenged, hearing that this book is being challenged makes me a bit sad. Yet, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most challenged books.That's not to say that I don't understand some of the problems that people have it with the book. Yes, it can be hard to discuss racial epithets and rape in the classroom. Yes, you can argue that the black characters in the book are marginalized. I guess maybe I just take a different stance on that -- I think that the difficult discussions are the ones most worth having.

Classics aren't classics because they are perfect -- they are classics because they shine a light on something and give us something to discuss. Lizzy attended a group reading of To Kill a Mockingbird and took not of the questions that the moderator, Richard Holloway, asked. They are great questions. I think this is my favorite.

"Can you think of a contemporary novel that takes on society’s big issues as successfully as To Kill A Mockingbird?"

Like most people, I went from the book to the movie (in my mind, the one and only proper order of operations). I cannot picture anyone but Gregory Peck as Atticus. I just can't.

Did you read in To Kill a Mockingbird in school?

BlogHer Book Club Host Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.


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