Today’s guest blogger is Susie Finkbeiner. In honor of Black History Month, she is reminding us why the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, is still so important to read yet today almost 60 years after it was writing.
Thank you Susie for some very insightful thoughts. I need to go read To Kill a Mockingbird again with these thoughts in mind.
Imagine a time when top news stories were about students sitting at a lunch counter, refused service because of the color of their skin. Or a woman being arrested for not surrendering her seat on the bus to a man who believed himself of a superior race than hers. What might it be like to see two sets of drinking fountains, one for white people and another for black people?
And imagine growing up, being told that this was right. That “separate but equal” was moral. That Jim Crow laws were for the good of everybody. That it was, in fact, Biblical to “keep to your own kind”.
This was the world in which Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.
She set the book twenty-seven years earlier, in 1933, when race relations were tense, particularly in southern states. It was a time when some folks were unashamedly prejudiced against those with a darker hue of skin. It was a time after the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a resurgence of membership and activity.
When the book released, it was a bestseller, won awards, and was made into a movie. It’s been widely banned which has only added to its intrigue. It has become the kind of book that readers love.
Originally released in 1960, this novel is still relevant today. Here are 4 reasons why.
1. It’s written from the point of view of innocence: Scout is a young girl, growing up in fictional Macomb, Alabama. At six years old, she views life with optimism, hope, and a keen sense of injustice.
It’s tempting to allow ourselves to grow cynical with age. To allow all we’ve seen of this life to color the way we view our world. But there’s something restorative about giving ourselves permission to see with childlike eyes. With all that’s going wrong, isn’t it refreshing once in awhile to ponder how it could be better?
2. It points to the unjust nature of inequality: Lee confronts inequality of several types in Mockingbird. Economic, gender, societal, and racial. Some of the inequality is evident to Scout. Others she’s not noticed until a wise adult (Atticus, Miss Maude, or Calpurnia) points them out to her.
Her story of confronting the injustice plants a seed in us, encouraging us to take note of that which is unjust in our world. We take stock of how our struggles with inequality echo those of our nation’s past. As we observe Atticus fighting for the right of an innocent man or Calpurnia serving lunch to an impoverished boy, we can be inspired to serve those in our communities as well.
3. We learn to walk in someone else’s skin: In the book, Atticus tells Scout, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Essentially, try to understand how it is for somebody else.
In our social media driven society we often jump to judgement calls. We’re quick to condemn. Empathy flies out the window. But when we stop, take a moment to think, and listen with the intent of understanding, being willing to walk a mile in somebody else’s skin, it can make all the difference in the world.
4. We are reminded that it takes courage to do what’s right: Atticus teaches Scout that real courage is “when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
Often the wrong seems stronger than us. The injustice too large. We fear that we could never overcome it. But still, we soldier on. We still stand against the darkness because even the little light we shine against it makes a difference. It takes very little — if any — courage to move forward when we know we’ll win. It takes a brave soul to fight, knowing that the odds are against us.
Next year will be the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. In those six decades, we have not outgrown the beauty of the story, the friends we made in the characters, or the lessons we learn from them.
And in that time we have not stopped needing voices like Harper Lee’s to invite us to walk around in the skin of someone else and to find courage to do the right thing.
There were several titles with release dates this past Tuesday. Many of them I already had in the store for a couple weeks and shared pictures at that time, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t get other great books.
Jocelyn Green once again transports us to a place in America’s history that not many are writing about. She puts the faces on those involved. I love learning about history that involves times and places that I am sure someone taught me at one time or another. History was and is about real people and events that shape what we do and where we live today.
Between Two Shores Green takes us to the time of the French/Indian war or the Seven Years’ War. It was a conflict between the two powerhouses in the new world, France and Britain and the people caught among them.
Catherine is just trying to survive and not get caught up in the mess. But when her father captures her ex-fiancé, she finds herself involved whether she wants to be or not. Whom can Catherine trust? Her family or the man who broke her heart?
Green’s books are well-researched with characters that are rich and believable. I found myself thinking these characters were real, and I was sure I would find their names in the history books somewhere.
Thank you, Jocelyn, for writing books that make history so interesting. Maybe if history was taught this way, more kids would listen in school.
One Winter month done and February is upon us. February is a hard month for me because in spite being short, it is usually cold, cloudy and just not fun. But great books like these will make it easier to stay inside.
A Desperate Hope – Elizabeth Camden – Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she believes is finally behind her. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak. Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed. Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them.
A Return of Devotion – Kristi Ann Hunter – #2 Haven Manor – Daphne Blakemoor was content living in her own secluded world for the last twelve years. She had everything she needed–loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes to a new marquis with an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.
William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect . . . until his housekeeper turns his life upside down. Both Daphne and William have spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, forge a new path for the future together?
Mending Fences – Suzanne Woods Fisher – Luke Schrock is a new and improved man after a stint in rehab, though everyone in Stoney Ridge only remembers the old Luke. They might have forgiven him, but nobody trusts him. He has been allowed to live at Windmill Farm under two conditions. First, he must make a sincere apology to each person he’s hurt. Second, he must ask each victim of mischief to describe the damage he caused. Simple, Luke thinks. Offering apologies is easy. But discovering the lasting effects his careless actions have caused isn’t so simple. It’s gut-wrenching. And his list keeps growing. Izzy Miller, beautiful and frustratingly aloof, also boards at Windmill Farm, and Luke’s clumsy efforts to befriend her only insult and annoy her. Eager to impress, Luke sets out to prove himself to her by locating her mother. When he does, her identity sends shock waves through Stoney Ridge.
Never Let Go – Elizabeth Goddard – #1 Uncommon Justice – Forensic genealogist Willow Anderson is following in her late grandfather’s footsteps in her quest for answers about a baby abducted from a hospital more than twenty years ago. When someone makes an attempt on Willow’s life to keep her from discovering the truth, help will come from an unexpected source. Ex-FBI agent–and Willow’s ex-flame–Austin McKade readily offers to protect the woman he never should have let get away. Together they’ll follow where the clues lead them, even if it means Austin must face the past he’s spent much of his life trying to forget–and put Willow’s tender heart at risk.
I have read a couple books this year already about bookstores. I love reading books about bookstores. One of them is The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel. (Don’t you just love that title?) The premise of the book is Sophia needs a place to recover from an abusive relationship. She finds a place to rent with the chance to work in the bookstore that is under the apartment.
There was one quote that really grabbed me while I was reading. I won’t tell you where it is in the book or what is going on, but I love this description of books themselves.
“Volumes large and small, some with torn jackets and frayed covers, threads coming loose, others in more pristine condition, as if they’d never been cracked. The poor dears. To never have fulfilled your purpose, even if you are only a book.
Of course in Sophia’s mind, there was no such thing as ‘only a book.’ Books were whole other worlds, wrapped in cardboard and parchment.
I love that last line, whole other worlds…, that says it so well and it is why we all read.