Recommended by JOHN MAGGITTI, co-owner, Novel Bay Booksellers
On Oct. 23, 2018, PBS host Meredeth Vieira shared with us what many already knew: that To Kill a Mockingbird was the most beloved novel in America. So how is it that this piece of Americana has been banned and continues to be banned? Harper Lee’s story is set in a time not really that long ago in America.
Mockingbird was, and is, a powerful story about poverty, racism, sexism and injustice. And this combination colluded to raise the ire of many groups of Americans. There is racist language, including a prolific use of the N word. There is the rape of a young woman. There is the “white savior” figure of Atticus Finch. And of course, justice does not prevail in the end. Lee wrote a fiction deeply steeped in the reality of the time.
But even today this novel is being banned anew. The Mukilteo School District in Washington just removed Mockingbird from its required reading list in 2022. One of the reasons given was that “it’s a very difficult book, and a lot of thorny subjects are raised, and we felt that some teachers may not feel comfortable guiding their students through it,” said John Gahagan, a member of the school board.
The brilliance of Lee’s story is its undeniable ability to expose the reader to a reality being faced by many of their fellow Americans. Never does Lee tell us what the right thing is, or even the better thing that should happen. She just tells us an eyes-wide-open story of a time in America that wasn’t all that long ago.