Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 8 (Harper Lee)

Lee, Harper
To Kill A Mockingbird

This one's pretty old. It may be the copy I read in high school, or it maybe the one my brother read in high school, or it may be the one I read in college, or it may be the one I used when I taught high school after college.

My memory of reading it in high school is of having enjoyed it, which was saying something for me at the time. I think I actually read the whole book, which was also saying something. That said, I don't have much to say about it now.

It's one of those books that gets read and talked about a little too much. One feels required to make public pronouncements about how important it is for everyone to read it because of the moral lessons it teaches, etc., etc., but I don't find myself returning to books to find moral examples.

You know what I mean?

I am sure you've read it before and thought it was the greatest thing you've ever read, so I'll skip the excerpt today.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael -- Actually it's a bad book and a mischievous one, full of preposterous white southern middleclass mythology to cover how they all lived with slavery, then segregation, and now covert racism.

Plus my very smart daughter once had to write a report on it for 6th Grade and said it was really about a little girl trying to grow up -- and she got a C. I'm still burning.
--Martha King

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Thanks for the comment, Martha. I am not sure I would go so far as to call it a "bad" book. Problematic, for sure. My main beef is with the way it gets taught and transmitted -- with all kinds of sanctimony and reverence that often fails to call into question many of the problems you point out.

I also think that it is the "safe" choice for talking about race in schools because it has a white protagonist. Authors like Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright get pushed aside because they are too "radical" and "afro-centric" for our largely toothless school districts.

Which is a real shame -- Black Boy, Native Son and The Invisible Man were all taught when I was in school in the eighties and were, to say the least, eye opening. Native Son was as important to me as, say, Catcher in the Rye, despite the latter's being somewhat closer to my own experience.