I Could Teach A History / English Lit Class From Just This Book

30 Jul

US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY
Publication Date: July 2015

I have not read To Kill A Mockingbird in over thirty years.  I read it once and liked it and moved on.  And, in anticipation of Harper Lee’s sequel, I decided not to reread but to see how the new book would stand on its own.  I did not order it in advance but got a library copy.  I did however read many, many reviews and comments.  Honestly, unless you live under a rock, you couldn’t avoid it.

The book had me from the line “It’s like Fenimore Cooper writin’ the  Waverly Novels.” (pg. 22 large print edition).  I GOT IT.  And then I thought how would I explain it to my middle school students.  Would my middle school teachers even get all of the references?  No.  I pulled out my phone and did internet searches on so many things that I either did not know or thought I recognized.  I had no idea what “Childe Roland” meant but I was determined to find out.  (Robert Browning poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”.)  When Scout, now known as Jean Louise, argues with her father, do you know your Constitutional amendments to keep up?

The story is simple, Jean Louise Finch comes home to Maycomb, Alabama for her annual two week visit.  She sets the stage explaining the community, the expectations of the society and her boyfriend, and then crashes into a horrible understanding of her father.  I’ve read many criticisms on Atticus being a racist.  For me, it was less about his reality than the reaction of Jean Louise.

“…she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born color blind.”  (pg. 147 large edition)

I still try to imagine Ms. Lee writing this book.  Then being told to write one about Scout’s childhood and doing that.  I will reread To Kill a Mockingbird now.  And, I’ll do it knowing that the author already knew Atticus Finch was a racist.

Recommended:  Grades 7 & up
By the way, I will be buying my own copy now.  I’ve still got references to look up.

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