‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee (1960)
Audio book narrated by Sissy Spacek
The first time I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ I was somewhere around 15. Only tonight I had a conversation about how memory is a funny thing. My memory of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was certainly flawed. A teenager’s values retained the court case, and the injustice, but not the bulk of the book, about the Finch family and the comings and goings of Maycomb County.
On the off chance that someone reading this blog has not read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, it is a book set in the 1930s, in the deep south of America. It is the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer and single father, and his two children, Scout and Jem. Scout narrates the story, which gives the tale a childlike innocence. It is an exploration of a three year period and explores the ideas of race, gender and class. And it tells the story through a lense of compassion and tolerance.
My teen recall had the bulk of the book being about Atticus defending the negro, Tom Robinson, against charges of rape. In reality, that event is only a small part of the story. I also had no clear memory of the ending, and thought that the events which do occur at the end were going to happen much sooner.
I was inspired to listen to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because of recent news that the sequel is to be published this year. What a pity to think that Harper Lee’s sister protected her for more than 70 years, and now, since the sister’s death a few months ago, that protection is gone and the book is to be revealed. There must be a very good reason for it not to have been released all this time. And it is on the record that Harper Lee is not mentally competent enough to approve of the decision. I don’t know whether or not to read it when it is published… I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
Interestingly, most of my colleagues love to teach the book. In my ten years of teaching I’ve never considered it, and now that I’ve read it again I am sure that I never would. It’s not that I don’t see the value in it as a teaching text. I certainly do. But there are so many wonderful Australian books with the same message that I think I would always be able to choose a more contextually relevant book for my class room.