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.