Weekly Geeks 2010-26: Happy Birthday TKAM

Fittingly this week’s discussion topic is related to the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. As a non-US resident the question I am ostensibly answering is “If you read the book but don’t live in the U.S., how did the novel influence your opinions about race in the U.S.?”

The short answer is, it didn’t.

I first read the book (and yes it was the one in the picture) in 1981. I was in my second year at high school and it was one of our set books for English that year. About all I can remember from my first reading and the discussion we must have afterwards was clearly identifying with Scout Finch. On subsequent readings this became something of an embarrassment to me as we really didn’t have a heck of a lot in common aside from long summers spent in the company of other children with equally vivid imaginations as Scout, Jem and Dill. But in those subsequent readings I continued to be more struck by things other than race: issues such as gender, justice and a generic treatment of outsiders. When I did think of race in connection with the book I must admit I consigned the issue to one of only historical significance. I suspect the reason for this is that America’s racial tensions are (or were when I was 14) pretty foreign to me and, particularly as I read the book first during my impressionable and egocentric teenage years, I concentrated on those aspects of the book that I could more easily identify with and relate to. Even now racial issues are not the first (or even second) thing I think of when I think of TKAM.

This copy of TKAM is one what is literally a handful of books that I have kept since reading it. It has accompanied me through eight house moves, done a couple of stints in long-term storage while I backpacked the globe and survived countless culls of the books on my shelves (I am the opposite of a hoarder).

It is a book I have re-read many times, thought about many more. I love it.

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6 Responses to Weekly Geeks 2010-26: Happy Birthday TKAM

  1. Bernadette – Thanks for this tribute to TKAM. It is a remarkable book, isn’t it? And I agree that the issues taken up in the book are not at all just issues of race (although that is there). Gender, culture and a lot of other issues are addressed. It’s interesting, too, the different things you get from a book as you readit more than once and at different times in your life. At least that’s what’s happened to me.

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  2. So true! And such a great reminder that books we read at one age can resonate in totally different ways years later.

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  3. Kerrie says:

    As you’ll see from my post, I actually used it with students as a text, and I’m not even sure that we focussed on race at all in our discussion. We had the “advantage” of being able ot link the book with viewing the film and I think that was probably what the students enjoyed most.

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  4. I loved it too. A book that transcends place.

    Here is my Weekly Geeks post!

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  5. Norman says:

    If you read TKAM in the 1960s there were so many other up to date influences that shaped your view of race in the USA that the book seemed like a brilliant historical story. My first employer in 1968 [not the best year for race relations in the USA] had lived in the USA, and been a salesman for a dental company traveling through the South. I think his stories, newspapers and television had a greater influence on me than the book.

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  6. kathy durkin says:

    Gosh, growing up in the U.S., in a big East Coast City, TKAM was very much seen as a novel about racism in the South and also about being principled in opposing it. The character of Atticus, the attorney, so well-portrayed in the movie by Gregory Peck, is seen in U.S. movie history as a hero who stood up against bigotry and did the right thing. This was Peck’s favorite role. Of course, TKAM is also about a young girl growing up and having to face some of life’s inequities and difficulties. I guess I have to reread it and think about all of the issues raised.

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