Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Harper Lee's New Book

I have not read Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.  For that matter, it has been quite a while since I read To Kill a Mockingbird.

I did find this article about the dilemma for educators interesting in the "seriously?" vein.

But other ardent fans of “Mockingbird” said they are heartbroken that they might no longer be able to present Atticus to their students as a pure icon of justice.
That includes Allison Jackson, an English teacher in Baltimore County in Maryland who named her Welsh corgi after him. She hopes her ninth-graders would read “Mockingbird” before hearing much about the new book. “I want my students to experience Atticus Finch, civil rights hero, the same way that people have for the past 55 years,” she said.

Sara Confino, who teaches ninth-grade English in Maryland’s Montgomery County, said she is struggling with how to address the troubling aspects of the new book in a school where most students are black or Hispanic. 
“How do I tell my students that yes, Atticus Finch is a wonderful character, he will represent you in court…but he doesn’t think 88% of you should be in school here?” she asked. “That’s a really hard sell.”

Seriously...pure icon of justice and a civil rights leader?  Hard sell to Black or Hispanic youth that there is a difference between legal justice and social justice--never mind in the 1920s or 30s, but today.  A hard sell?

I am practically speechless.

Glimmers of hope come for me in these quotes:

“Mockingbird” is one of the most commonly assigned works in U.S. schools, typically in eighth or ninth grade. While the novel depicts its narrator, Scout, as a girl who looks up to her lawyer father as he defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman, “Go Set a Watchman” shows Scout as an adult disillusioned with his segregationist views. 

“One of the reasons school is boring is because we avoid conflicts,” said Ms. Jago, associate director of the California Reading and Literature Project at University of California, Los Angeles. “These are not easy conversations to have with students, but avoiding the conversation isn’t going to get us closer to the nation that we want to be.” 

But, okay, here is probably the real reason for the article about the new book:

Its U.S. publisher, HarperCollins, is owned by News Corp, as is The Wall Street Journal.
Certainly makes me want to reread the one and then read the other!


  1. It might be a good idea to remember that in "To Kill A Mockingbird", Atticus Finch was appointed by the judge to represent the black man. Nowhere does the book claim that Atticus was a champion of civil rights. He was simply doing his duty as a defense attorney. He came to believe his client was not guilty, but that's about as far as the book went. I'm going to read the book and make up my own mind.

  2. What I think is more interesting is why Harper Lee changed her first book, "Watchman" into "Mockingbird". She says she listened to her editor and did what she asked. Was it social pressure? A better product to sell? Kinda' makes me wonder where Miss Lee's convictions lay.

  3. When I first heard about the social evolution of Atticus Finch in Watchman, I decided not to read it. I used TKAM often with my eight graders, and we'd watch the movie, and once attended the play. It was a great teaching tool, and the kids gained a lot from it. What would I do with the sequel? Again, I'd probably be able to use it as a tool for comparison/contrast and some good discussion panels. I'll read the new book, and I'll see how I feel at the end.

  4. I am torn and possibly will not read Watchman. Though I may change my mind but for now I prefer the hero Atticus. In time, maybe I will accept the flawed version. Most of us are flawed but we do like our heroes to look up to. How's that for fence sitting?

  5. I really want to read it just so that I can judge it for myself but I would also like to reread Mockingbird first. But knowing me I won't soon get around to either.

  6. I've decided not to read the sequel anytime soon. I also prefer the hero Atticus, and the entire story. There are other reasons I would not enjoy this book.

    Now if the woman ever wrote about her friendship with Truman Capote, especially about the time of In Cold Blood, that I would snap up;

  7. I don't think I'll read it. It seems backward...

  8. I'm tired of being disillusioned by people. I'm not going to read Watchman.


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