Scout. Jem. Dill. Atticus. Boo Radley. Even now – 52 years after the publication of Harper’s Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – these names warm readers’ souls everywhere as they beckon us back to a tiny town in the 1930’s American South – Maycomb, Alabama. When I read the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in junior high, how the characters and the character of the town evolved made a deep impression on me. These kids are a lot of fun and have great imaginations! Scout’s, Jem’s, and Dill’s ebullience, resourcefulness, and resilience as children serve them well even as they face the ugly reality of racism and alleged rape in their community. And the character of Atticus? He’s a widower with two small children, and a humble, civil servant who does the wildly unpopular, albeit right thing in defending an innocent black man. You wouldn’t think that such an “ordinary guy” role would be the basis for the Greatest Movie Hero of the 20th Century according to the American Film Institute, but it is. That’s because Harper Lee wrote her characters so well and punctuated her story with the Boo Radley, “bogeyman” turned reluctant hero.
It’s incredible to me that this great work of literature is one which has been challenged, restricted, or banned. The “N” word, racism, and the subject of rape are all realistically used, true to the time and place. Banned Book Week serves as a reminder to be vigilant against such censorship. If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, read it during Banned Book Week. And if you, like many other readers have already read and loved it, read another controversial classic that has undeservedly come under fire. Then stand up for it.
–Melia, Cedar Rapids Public Library