Singing the praises of To Kill A Mockingbird @50

To Kill A Mockingbird, race and prejudice, morality tale, 50th anniversary, Scout FinchFifty years ago, Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. The novel was published on 11 july 1960. It immediately became a best-seller, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and was made into an Academy Award-winning film in 1962.

The novel has never gone out of print and 11 july 2010 is its golden jubilee.

I saw the film in 1965, I watched it on TV with my father. While I was very young, I’ll never forget the haunting nature of the film. It made an impression on me in so many ways: the opening credit sequence showing the ordinariness of a childhood – about to be shattered, meeting Atticus and Scout (what young girl didn’t want to be Scout?) and becoming an intimate observer of their father-daughter relationship.

It wasn’t until about four years later that I would read the book for the first time, and truly understand the power behind the film. The book opened up a new world of reading for me and the film was the basis for my love of that medium.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book filled with indelible characters dealing with race and prejudice, parenting and childhood, love and loneliness, and the moral dilemmas and injustices in the world. I read it in the late 60s. In some ways, it was similar to my life and the racial tensions exploding in Philadelphia and around the country at that time.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” – Scout

Scout (Jean Louise Finch) is the narrator. It’s from her point of view that we see the events of the summer of 1933 unfolding. She’s questioning the inexplicable and trying to make sense of the right and wrong of the world, and figure out herself – in the only way a six-year old can.

Harper Lee helped many people think differently – or at least think – about race and prejudice. It’s a testament to her novel that on 11 july, celebrations will be held worldwide.

I still have my beat up, yellowed, paperback copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. It was printed in 1962 and the pages have come loose from the spine. It will have to disintegrate for me to let it go.

Listen to this NPR feature about the book’s 50th anniversary.

Photo: © 2010 Janet Giampietro / 1962 paperback, To Kill A Mockingbird.

3 Responses to “Singing the praises of To Kill A Mockingbird @50”

  1. Zoe D. Says:

    I found this post amid all the “Mockingbird” hoopla over the past week or so.

    Are you (and millions of others) perhaps confusing a childhood impression of a book with a good book? TKAM wasn’t a great book. It was an influential book and that’s a different thing.

    Here’s an article from the The Guardian. I think the writer has an interesting POV:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jul/13/kill-a-mockingbird-atticus-finch-barack-obama

    Would like to hear your feedback.

  2. janet g Says:

    Welcome Zoe D.

    Thanks for your comments. I guess it depends on how one defines good or great. Does a book have to be a literary masterpiece to be considered great? Or do influence, personal connection and endurance make a book great? Must a book be defined by both to enter the “great” stratosphere? It’s defined by personal preferences and experiences, I would think.

    I’m told that Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great book. I can’t get through it. I’ve tried several times, and with different translations. Not such a great book for me personally, if I can’t connect to it. I adore Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and many people discount or consider it a trifle.

    To Kill A Mockingbird was very influential to me. Scholars can consider it melodrama but it made me love reading, engaged my mind on civil rights issues and the world around me. IMO, that’s pretty great.

    FYI, an old article, The 10 Greatest Books of All Time. How does that measure up to your list?

    Cheers,
    janet g

  3. Bob G Says:

    Very nice piece, Janet. Thank you.

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