She kept dozens of books there; ones by people like Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. All of them about pimping or being a drug addict or being raped and becoming someone’s bitch in prison or all 3. Ah the classics, I don’t think they write ‘em like they used to. But she had one book that has stayed with me all of these years. It was about a little girl in the 1930’s whose family life had entered into a situation that was completely foreign to her. It was about how she discovered how truth can often be hidden behind form and ritual and convention and that win or lose, sometimes the fight is all we have; the only thing that can bring meaning to our lives.
Of course I’m referring to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird that was first published 50 years ago this weekend. I’m not going to review the book since I’m sure that’s been done by editors and professors and plenty of other people who are much more capable than me. Plus I have not read the book since I first opened it, But I remember it. I remember not realizing that Scout, the protagonist and narrator was a girl until I was about 2 thirds of the way through the book. I remember Jem her older brother who looked after her to his utmost ability, the way that most brothers do but only when they have to. I remember reading about her father Atticus the lawyer shooting a rabid dog and defending t Tom Robinson in court not because it the heroic thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. I remember the fear created by the presence of Boo Radley until, as with all things once the reality is known, the truth is often different from the perception.
But whether others think of the incident as murder, man-slaughter or just deserts all I can say is that I’m reminded of a short passage in the book where Atticus said to Jem:
“I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”