This is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Ever. It’s definitely topping the charts for this year (sorry, Old Testament), and I can’t think of a more wholesome, refreshing, honest look at life. It’s simply fantastic.
Written at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is the story of a 9-year-old learning some harsh truths about the society she lives in. Scout lives in southern Alabama, during the Great Depression. Her new schoolteacher won’t let her read, because she’s not supposed to learn that until 3rd grade. Her classmates often go hungry. Her father is appointed defense attorney to a Black man accused of raping a White woman, a crime that can carry the death penalty, and Scout’s neighbor Boo Radley is rumored to be a madman who haunts the streets at night. Scout encounters all these with a childish candor that blasts through the layers of complication grown-ups add to everything. To Scout, there’s just one kind of folks: folks.
This is not only a beautiful depiction of childhood, it’s also a beautiful depiction of the fight for humanity. Scout’s father Atticus Finch spends much of the book defending Tom Robinson, a Black man, even though he knows the White jury will convict Tom. Atticus already knows the cause is lost, but does everything he can to change the minds of the jury, considering it at least a “baby-step” when a juryman considers acquitting. Atticus is one of the only people in the state, it seems, who considers all human beings worthy of respect. He doesn’t allow his children to disrespect anyone, or to grow up with prejudice – but he also doesn’t become bitter in the face of opposition. He allows that everyone has their faults, and gives everyone – Black, White, learned, or ignorant – the benefit of the doubt.
I would recommend this book to anyone mature enough to understand what rape is, and to recognize that there are racial slurs in the book for the purpose of pointing out their ignorance. The writing is beautiful and hits home, making decent human behavior look like the obvious course of action. ♦