Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Book Club Time Again! This time - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I think this is my all-time favorite book.  I grew up in an in-between era.  I was born after the Civil Rights movement but with people who were still unaware of their racism and prejudices.  It took a long time, and many corrections, for my mother to stop referring to "her black friend."  I think To Kill A Mockingbird really exemplifies things that are still wrong with society today - where skin color makes a difference in every facet of life...but no one will admit it.  Much of our society likes to think we are in a post-racial society, but we're not.  Not really.

How do I know this?  Well, I belong to a political discussion group on FB - it's comprised of a mixture of people with different ages, races, education and income levels, and views.  Mostly we keep things cordial, but discussions about race come up a lot. When you have Ivy League educated professionals discussing how race still affects their everyday lives, we are not post-racial.

In recent days, there have apparently been some interesting trending topics on Twitter - one is #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen - and is in regards to the way the feminist movement excludes women of color.  Here's the story if you're interested.  A related topic is #blackpowerisforblackmen which outlines the misogyny and racism within the black community itself.  I'm not a user of Twitter, but this sort of thing appeals - you can join in the stream of conversation.  Or you can, after the heat of the moment has passed, return to the conversation and see if you see yourself there.   Either way, I think these topics started some conversations, and that's progress.

But back to the book.  In addition to just being a good story with really well-written characters who feel like family, there are so many different messages in To Kill A Mockingbird.  There is the obvious racial theme.  There is the theme of white privilege.  There is the theme of the underdog.  There is the theme of familial abuse.  There is the theme of familial love and loyalty.  There is the theme of living an unconventional life.

 For me, I think the most important theme. the one that has stuck with me, is the theme of standing up for what's right, no matter the personal cost.  Most days, I'm not sure that I have the strength of character to always do what's right.  Other days, I'm confronted with the choice, and fortunately, so far, I've mostly chosen the right path, rather than the easy one.

I guess that's my question, then - which theme/message stuck with you the most, and why?

 After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for To Kill a Mockingbird.  You can get your own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee at bookstores including Amazon.

*Side note:  Because I transferred high schools between my sophomore and junior years, I was able to use To Kill A Mockingbird for class assignments 3 years running.  Maybe that's why I love the book so much.


  1. I think the prevailing theme of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is standing up for what is right no matter what. Atticus exemplifies this with his acceptance of Tom Robinson's case. He stands up to his community and shows that justice should be provided to all, not just to whites. He knew it was a lost case, given the time-frame, but refused to accept that a man should be convicted solely on the color of his skin. Pretty powerful message for the 1930s or even the 2010s.

  2. I agree with Vivian about the prevailing theme, but another theme that is jumping out at me is the idea of not knowing people the way we think we do. Jem and Scout and Dill thought they knew what Boo Radley was like, but it came out over time how wrong they were. Maycomb County thought they knew Tom Robinson, but most of them didn't notice until there in the trial that his left arm was basically useless. People in Maycomb County knew what Cunninghams were like, knew what Ewells were like, knew what "Negroes" were like, knew what people with background were like, knew what Mrs. Dubose was like. Suuure, they did.

  3. Oh! I was going to say the same thing as Kechara. It's not the theme that I think is the most important, but that idea that you could live next door to people your entire life and not really know them; live in a house with someone for years and not really know them. The idea that we can't really know anyone except ourselves, and therefore, we will constantly be surprised or disappointed or excited by events.

  4. I think because my background is different to yours, I did not 'feel' the book like most reviews - the effusive, glow of nostalgia. It was definitely nice, but I think the immediacy of the book to your world would make it super special to you than me.

    I read this book a long time ago. And I think racism was one of the major plots I remember from this book.

    1. I was going to note that non-Americans might find it difficult to understand what about this book is so intriguing. I guess the context in which you've grown up is very important. I think most Americans of my age and older find it so compelling just because of their own personal history of racism. I was wondering how well that would translate to other cultures. It's probably like the Khaled Hosseini books (Kite Runner, And The Mountains Echoed are the ones I've read) - such good stories, but probably more meaningful to people from Afghanistan.