How Did This Anniversary Get By Us?

To Kill A Mockingbird:

To Kill A Mockingbird was my lifeline. It changed my life when I read it. Itcompletely changed the way I thought about my community. It changed my life every time I re-read it.

The reason I remember exactly how old I was when I got that book, and exactly when I got that book, is becausethe act of my mother giving me that book was the only honest conversation I ever had about racism. It was theonly
time I was ever allowed to acknowledge that the things I saw happening
around me every day were wrong, that they were horrible, that there was
something deeply troubling about the community I lived in. Because you
did not talk about it. You did not talk about it. You did not talk
about it.

But there was this book, this book, and in 1989, it was talking about racism whennothing else in my life was. And yes, in 1989, that was so, so important. It’s still that important.

TKAM
is a flawed book, and it is directed very clearly at white people. It
has outdated ideas about race and deeply problematic images of black
people. It has troubling tropes. Itis a problem that it’s considered to bethe
ultimate statement on racism, and there’s no denying that TKAM’s huge
popularity is primarily due to it coming from a white mouthpiece and
being directed primarily at a white community of readers. And I realize
that this post is proving one of the strongest points you can make
about the general public opinion of TKAM: that white people read it and
then glorify it becausethey think it is the only book about racism they will ever need to read.

It’s
possible that if any other book about racism had been handed to me at
that age, that book would have been the one that changed my life. But
becauseTo Kill a Mockingbird was and is the accepted manifesto
on white people and racism, it was the one that wound up in my Easter
basket. It was the one that was deemed an acceptable introduction for
me as a young white girl–notRoll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, for
example. Was it the right choice? No. The right choice would have been
to have systematic representation of black literature in my schools and
out of them, across the board. The right choice would have beenTo Kill A Mockingbirdand any number of other wonderful books about racism.

Those things deserved to be talked about when we celebrate TKAM’s 50th anniversary. And when we don’t.

For Scout:

Scout ham

A.

4 thoughts on “How Did This Anniversary Get By Us?

  1. I read that book for the love of it long before it was required by my school. I loved it so much, my nickname in high school was “Scout”. (hey, I could have gone for ‘chiffarobe’!)
    šŸ™‚
    Happy Anniversary TKAM! šŸ™‚ I still love GP as Atticus…sigh.
    And now I’m off to check out the Corpse Flower finally blooming! šŸ™‚

  2. Adrastos says:

    Ham, ham, ham.

  3. montag says:

    Still, a book about racism in the `30s, written in 1960, on the cusp of a great upheaval in race relations in the country, inevitably means thatTo Kill a Mockingbird was at least some small contribution to that upheaval.
    Are there other books that ought to stand with it, that are more honest and expressive of what racism was and is in this country? Sure. But, withoutTo Kill a Mockingbird opening a few white eyes, James Baldwin’sThe Fire Next Time andNotes of a Native Son might not have been as well received, nor might there have been a resurgence of interest in Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, or in Langston Hughes and other movers and shakers of the `20s Harlem Renaissance, or as much willingness to see past the media stereotypes created around Malcolm X.
    In a white-dominated society, maybe it took a white woman to get the door cracked open just enough for people to get a glimpse of what was on the other side of a door they’d not previously been inclined to open on their own.

  4. scout says:

    Great anniversary of a great book.
    Ham for all

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