CBR11 Bingo: Banned Books
In trying to decide what to read for the Banned Book square, I considered several options, but landed on re-reading this classic. The first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird was in my Grade 10 English class. I remember being shocked as an adult to hear that it was so often protested, because it was just accepted as a classic in my classroom twenty-five-ish years ago. Maybe a difference between where Canadians and Americans draw their lines in the literary sand? Much of the protest has been about the use of the n-word, which I suppose is valid, but even as a 15-year old, I recognized that this was a word used to drive home a point in the book about the time and place that it was set; it wasn’t a license for me to use that word, ever. Regardless, I hadn’t revisited this novel since my school days, and was curious as to whether I would find it just as impactful, whether I would see the justification in its ‘banned’ status, and whether my view of it would change when I was reading it for fun (as opposed to reading it with the goal of dissecting it and writing essays about it).
Most people are familiar with the plot of this classic novel (or at least the equally famous movie), and how it follows single father (and lawyer) Atticus Finch, and his two kids Jem and Scout through their lives in the South. The climax of the plot centres around Atticus’ defense trial of a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman, and the impact the trial (and its results) have on their town and the people in it.
I remember reading this book in my (95% white, middle class, Canadian) classroom, and being outraged by the racism described in the book. I was angered by the description of the trial, by the offensive ways that white characters talked about their black neighbours, and I remember being so incredible naive to be thankful that this was a book about the past.
Reading it as an adult was eye-opening in a whole different way. Yes, the racism still angers me…. but I look back on myself and am ashamed and saddened by my thought that this was a book about times gone by, and that this racism wasn’t present in the same way anymore. The fact that these themes are just as prevalent today is a travesty, and breaks my heart. This is still a powerful book, with beautiful & heart warming revelations about humanity… and in my opinion should be a staple in English curriculums everywhere.