Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bird

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. 


  1. One of the best books ever question. I had to read it in 10th grade and it really made an impact on me. I always think of Atticus Finch when I'm faced with challenges that seem impossible to's funny, how amazing literature can encourage us that way...

    What a great post! I think Connor and I will explore the banned books list for our classwork this morning! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Read it in high school and it was one of the most difficult books to get through. Content too close to what life was like then, 1981, South Africa. Enough said right.

  3. Yes, it's true...I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I have it in my home, and started it years ago, but never got beyond a chapter. Maybe it was when I'd just had a baby, and could not focus on a book.
    Anyway, with the recent media attention on (was it an anniversary?), I've put it back on my must read list.
    I've seen bits and pieces of the movie, therefore I know the story, but still - there's nothing like reading it from cover to cover.

    I took a look at the banned books list. I've read about 10 of the books, and my kids have read several of the series books. Junie B. Jones...I can't imagine. One day, I'll take time to find out why.

    Loved Kaffir Boy back in the late 80s; or was it the early 90s? Sad, but had me feeling I was in South Africa with him.