Yesterday, the literary world celebrated 57 years since the iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird was published by the J.B. Lippincott Company.
As Harper Lee’s only published book (except technically Go Set a Watchman in 2015, but that’s a different story) it has been sold over 40 million times! Many generations have been influenced by this book and the lessons that it teaches. It continues to teach important lessons about racism and civil courage that are no less relevant today than they were 57 years ago.
To Kill a Mockingbird has had some opponents though. Throughout the years there have been many people who wish to see it disappear from library shelves. In fact, last year there was a school board in Virginia who considered pulling the novel from local schools because of the derogatory racial terms mentioned in it.
After reading the book, it left me with a certain fascination of Harper Lee. I was rather disappointed to find that she only wrote one novel (this was before Go Set a Watchman was published). The novel is so simple and yet thought-provoking. Lee was able to develop the characters so well and make them memorable. She was also able to create Maycomb (inspired by her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama) with such great imagery. I don’t think I’ve ever read a coming-of-age book like this that really showed what a kid growing up goes through when they start to learn about the world and its problems. As you read the book you can see and feel how the characters are growing up and learning. They gradually change due to the events that occur in their lives. Once you’re done reading the book it’s as if you’ve grown up with them.
I’m currently reading Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields. It’s fascinating to read more behind Harper Lee and learn new information about her because she was so private with her life. In fact, she barely gave interviews. There were only a few she did when the novel was first published, but after that, nothing. I think maybe because Harper Lee was so private, it makes to To Kill a Mockingbird a little more mysterious in a way. What inspired it? Why did she feel the need to write it? Did something happen in her life to prompt her to sit down for 6-12 hours a day and write this novel? As much as we might want to know more about her, I think this is what helps make To Kill a Mockingbird what it is. Instead of the world focusing on her and her thoughts, we focus on the book itself and its meaning.
Mockingbird has brought up some very intriguing facts about Harper Lee I didn’t know. For instance, her name is actually Nelle Harper Lee. She also wanted to be known as “the Jane Austen of South Alabama”. Her father didn’t like the idea of her being a writer. He wanted her to stay in school and be a lawyer. I’m about halfway done with this book and it’s quite fascinating. I highly recommend you check it out, although do so after you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird.
Just imagine, if Harper Lee stayed in school and became a lawyer, we might not have To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel is one of those classics that will live on forever and continue to inspire generations to fight for what is right.