July 11 was the 50th anniversary of the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
This is also the day I was married.
I only recently discovered that Shane and I share our anniversary with the American classic, significant because it’s one of our favorite books. In fact, before our daughter was born, he wanted to name her Scout, after Harper Lee’s feisty main character, which seemed like a good idea until you put it with our last name.
Awkward. You sense that, right?
Despite abandoning the name, apparently our young ones harbor a few qualities of the Finch children. A co-worker maintained for months that my son and daughter, ages 7 and 5, reminded her of Jem and Scout. It had been years since I had read the book, and her claims prompted me to watch the movie for the first time.
I was mesmerized by the film, even though I knew what was going to happen, and surprised by the likeness of my children to the main characters, not only in some aspects of their behavior, but also in physical resemblance to the young actress and actor.
I’ll report back if my daughter pipes up with “Pass the damn ham,” this holiday season.
All of this in combination with the anniversary warrants a re-reading. I can’t wait to dive in. I think some people are disappointed that this is Lee’s only novel, and until reading some recent articles, I always thought I understood. I thought maybe one book was all she had in her. I mean, how do you follow-up “To Kill a Mockingbird?” And why would you …
But recently I’ve learned more about the author herself and the toll this book took on her. For some of us, it’s hard to comprehend the racial tension of the 1960s, but step back in time, and you can see why her book may not have been popular with a large segment of the population. Lee received hate mail after the book was published, and it’s reported that even her own sister was unhappy with the book.
Several articles I read also said that although the book was fiction, it was more autobiographical than most realized. I had always heard that the character Dill was based on Lee’s good friend and fellow author, Truman Capote, but was surprised to learn that some aspects of Boo Radley may have been based on her mother, who was emotionally distressed. Lee’s father was also a lawyer in real life.
I’ve included links below to a few articles either about the 50th anniversary or about the book in general.
After reading through only a handful of articles, I better understand the possibilities behind her making “… Mockingbird” her one and only, and why she has been a recluse in recent decades, which is in fact what has bothered me more. Her silence.
I want to hear her talk about the book. I want to learn about her writing methods and routine. I want to know about her experience being published and her friendship with Capote. I want to know if she’s tried to write another novel. I want to know more about Scout.
But maybe that’s all too painful. And maybe I’m selfish.
A re-reading must suffice.
Links to articles about “To Kill a Mockingbird:”
“50 Years On, ‘Mockingbird’ Still Sings America’s Song,” by Lynn Neary
“Monroeville’s Mockingbird: 50 Years after the debut of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ Harper Lee’s Alabama hometown celebrates (carefully) the book that made it famous,” by Mike Wilson
“Don’t mention the mockingbird! The reclusive novelist who wrote the classic novel that mesmerised 40 million readers,” by Sharon Churcher
“‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Anniversary: Anna Quindlen On The Greatness Of Scout”