“but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down—well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. ” Harper Lee
When I was nine years old I was in a split class of Grade 5 and 6 (I was in the fifth grade). It was the only time that I was in a split class and it was one of the most eye opening experiences in my elementary school life. It was in this grade that I learned about injustice and that there was this concept of “the other”. I am East Indian, but what that meant was not clear to me – and even now, I am not sure. Religion was not big at my school and if anyone ever went to church or temple regularly it was not discussed (we did say the Lord’s Prayer for the first few years of my elementary education). I knew my family’s religion was of Sikh faith and we identified ourselves with Punjabi culture but it was always second to being Canadian.
“There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life. […]” HL
I grew up being in the minority, but at that time I would not have known it. My friends and I liked the same books, movies and TV shows and even giggled over the same crushes at our lunch break, or after school at the mall. I just happened to have darker skin and spoke Punjabi to my grandmother. No one treated me any different that I noticed. This was the grade I discovered Judy Blume’s preteen novels (and from her Iggie’s House I learned that having darker skin and a culture different from most people could define you, and could cause people to dislike you just based on that). As a class we read That Scatterbrain Booky about the great depression and Anne Frank’s Diary about World War II. For a more positive activity we also created our own creations of Robert Munsch picture books which we sent to him in the mail. Yet, the memory that stands out the most for me was watching To Kill A Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck. We watched the movie for an unit on Justice and Law. I wasn’t a fan of black and white films at that age but was just happy we were watching a movie and not doing math! Twenty minutes in and I was hooked…I don’t know if I understand everything but I did learn about injustice; and from then on I saw the world a little different. The world wasn’t saved by Superman nor were all bad guys put in prison.
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” HL
Atticus Finch influenced my sense of what is right and I wanted to be a lot like him – not a lawyer, but trying to do the right thing even when it’s not wanted or the easy route to go. I read the book in the sixth grade and while the large concepts were over my head, I enjoyed the writing and Scout’s point of view. Even at that age Harper could explain a lot through Scout. My dad had seen the movie when it first came out and enjoyed it so I’ve seen it many times over the years with him. Each time I watch it I get shivers during the courtroom scenes. I have read the book twice more since the sixth grade (once during the summer before I started college, and again on my own time while I was taking American History courses in University) and it is still inspiring. Now when people ask what my favourite novel is, I say that To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) is in the top 3, in no particular order (Will write another post on my top 3 favourite books at some point).
“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.” HL
Lee and Truman Capote
The fact that Harper Lee never wrote another book has been a hard concept for me…how can she not write another piece…not even another TKAM novel or even another format. How about short stories? Essays? Letters? So then of course to satiate my thirst I had to find a biography and find out more about Ms. Lee (Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J Shields). What the heck? She was friends with Truman Capote? Capote who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany (very different than the movie) and In Cold Blood? Now I really wanted more! So like my wishes for chips to suddenly become a weight-loss food , or that I could build a travel machine to go back to the golden age of movies, I added I hope Harper Lee writes a second book to the wish list.
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” HL
Cover reveal in 2015
Flash forward to February 2015 – “Harper Lee’s missing book is found and will be published this summer” felt like a hoax. And, then began the story of Lee’s sister dying which left Lee vulnerable to the new estate execs and their wishes. Harper Lee has said she will never publish another book so this does seem suspicious. Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman (GSAW) before TKAM, but her editor found Scout’s story as a child more intriguing so Lee went on to rewrite her book to what is now TKAM. The original manuscript was put away where it was “lost” or purposely hidden for over 50 years. Now it seems like this novel came out of nowhere and published quickly before anything can be done.
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” HL
Quote from GSAW
So, as a fan of Harper Lee and TKAM will I be reading GSAW? Yes, I will. I will because I have absolutely no will power when it comes to my own personal miracle coming true. I don’t want to go against Lee’s wishes but why was this novel not destroyed if it was never to be published? (Okay, that may be justification for my weakness). I am hoping that secretly Lee would want her true fans to read it. Fine, I will take any reason as the temptation is too great for me – after all I am a book addict. I do wonder how much money will go to Harper Lee versus those who have made the deal for this book to be published. To sleep better at night I may just borrow the book from the library. Plus, I will give up chips for a whole month as penance…
Anyone else going to read GSAW? Hey, I need to know there are other fans out there like me, lol.
Image from the Guardian
For preview of first chapter:
Go Set a Watchman – First Chapter
*NOTE: All quotes are from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
*Original post was published in 2015/07/16