To Kill A Mockingbird

I am ashamed to admit that I don’t read enough.  I love to read, and when I was younger, would voraciously devour books.  I clearly remember my mom subscribing me to a book club when I was 11 or 12 and then getting frustrated with me because I’d get my four new books in the mail and read them all in just a few days.  Last week, on vacation, I read two books cover to cover and made a vow to myself, as I do every year, to read more.

When I was 13 years old, I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time.  I loved it instantly.  I fell head over heels for Atticus Finch, found bits of myself in Scout, and so wanted Jem to be my big brother.  Just like Scout, Boo Radley and his gifts in the tree filled me with curiosity.  While I understood the racial inequality (and maybe, to a lesser extent, the social injustices) the book addressed, I don’t know if my 13-year old brain grasped why I cried while reading it the first time.  I’ve read it at least a dozen times since, and every time, I still cry.  And every time I read it, I come away with some new understanding of the world.  It is far and away my favorite book of all time.

This past week, I stumbled upon a newspaper article that talked about the anniversary of the book’s publication.  This weekend – July 11th – will mark 50 years since this amazing work of literature was written.  Harper Lee was a year younger than me when the book was published – 34 years old.  From the accounts that I’ve read, she spent a little over two years writing the book, so that would mean that she wrote this brilliant novel in her early 30s.  I’m astounded and fascinated by that.  Especially since she set the book in the years just after the Great Depression, when she would have been just a little bit older than her narrator.  Add that to her bravery in tackling social issues in the midst of one of the most contentious times in U.S. history, and you can easily understand why I think so highly of her as a writer. And yet, she’s never published another book.  What a loss for us in the reading public.

I think, this weekend, I’ll pick up my favorite book and celebrate its publication by reading it yet again.  And I’m sure that when I’m done, I’ll feel inspired, as I always do.

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