This is banned books week. The American Library Association has a list of the most challenged books of the decade, and I highly recommend checking it out. If you're like me, the list will boggle your mind. It's important to remember that there are still people out there who would censor some of the best books ever written. A number of the bloggers I follow have written about their favorite banned books, and reading these posts has inspired me to write about the banned book that means the most to me.
To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time-hands down-banned or otherwise. I didn't read the book in school, which is surely an indictment of my education. I read it on my own after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. I read it over the course of a Western road trip with a good friend of mine, and it had an immediate, profound effect on me. For my money, Atticus Finch is the best character in American literature. His integrity and perseverance in the face of evil still inspire me to this day.
Then there's Scout. Let's just say Jean Louise Finch made quite an impression on me. When the doctor told Meg and I that our first born was going to be a girl, I knew her name had to be Scout. Luckily for me, Meg was amenable, and I have to say, our Scout embodies the spirit of her namesake.
I think the main reason people have tried to ban Mockingbird is because of racist language, particularly, use of the n word. The language makes people uncomfortable, but that's the point. Harper Lee was shining a light on hatred and racism. Yes, the n word is abhorrent, but to exclude it from a book set in Jim Crow Alabama would have been dishonest. And that's the thing about To Kill a Mockingbird. It is the most unflinchingly honest book I have ever read.
I make it a point to reread The Bird every year. If you haven't read it in a while, maybe now is the time.