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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

*Psst* Click the picture to find a copy

No, I am not going to review To Kill A Mockingbird. It's been done a million times. It won a Pulitzer and that's really all you need to know. But, to celebrate Harper Lee's new book Go Set A Watchman releasing today, I am going to encourage everyone to pick up TKAM and read it (or read it again).

If you're like me, the last time you read this book was for a school assignment, and we all know how those went. Most of the time you either hated it because you were forced to read it, you couldn't keep up with the reading because of all your other homework, and/or you reverted to SparkNotes just so you could pass the reading quizzes. Believe me, I hated most of our required reading, but I loved To Kill A Mockingbird. I haven't opened my copy since I was twelve, in seventh grade and smack dab in the middle of my awkward phase. Looking back now, it was a great time to read this book.

I was about the same age as Jem, one of the main characters, and still young enough to connect with Scout, the young narrator. As a twelve-year-old in a public school that I didn't quite fit into, with all kinds of social influences that I wasn't ready to deal with, this book was a savior. Atticus Finch was a bright shining light. Not because he was fighting for equal rights and combating a flawed justice system, but because he was willing to stand up for what he believed in and wasn't afraid to be different. Yes, maybe at twelve the deeper, social points were lost on me, but I remember this book making me feel ok about being the awkward friend (thanks to Kody Keplinger, I think we call it The Duff now) and not being interested in dating boys or picking out bras. Scout wasn't interested in those types of things either (although she was younger) and Atticus was a strong role model, telling her that it's ok to follow your own path – no matter how hostile the town folk are going to get.

Now, a decade later, I picked up the book again with a new perspective. The awkward phase ended, at least for the most part (we all have those days), I am happy with who I am and getting to read a book from a child's perspective covering such profound issues was really enlightening. The social impact of this novel was not lost on me the second time around and it just reinforced my belief that if we were just kind to everyone and stopped singling out those who are different, we could solve many of the world's problems. I loved watching Scout trying to articulate what was going on around her, reading Jem's lines about how unfair the world is, and really delving into the realm of a child where all things should be fair and the cruelty that exists in the world just doesn't always make sense.

Ten years ago, Harper Lee taught me to be comfortable in my own skin, and this weekend she taught me to not go around the world accepting things for what they are, and not to accept something just because it is, even though I know it shouldn't be. She taught me to keep my childlike sense of fairness and to question the things that I don't understand.

Really: take three days and read this book. It's classic and it deserves a spot on your shelf. I didn't remember a lot of the smaller plot points, so it was still captivating even though it was a re-read. I don't want new readers to grab Go Set A Watchman  from the giant display at Barnes and Noble and think it's the only story about these characters. (We don't need any more of these Kanye/Paul McCartney or Missy Elliot/Katy Perry scenarios.) Go ahead and treat yourself to the box set and get a copy of both books – then read them both! Go Set A Watchman was waiting for me on my doorstep at lunch time, so you know it's time to binge read it!

Happy reading! I hope this book can spread a little literary sunlight on your day!

Lots of love,

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