Thursday, August 15, 2013

GRAB(ook) Club: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I love to read -- but no matter how much you love to read, or how many books you read, period, there will always be some books that, for whatever reason (so many books... so little time...) you just haven't gotten around to reading.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was one of those books for me. I've never seen the full movie, either, although I've seen bits & pieces. (In reading the book, I realized I had actually seen more of the movie than I had thought.)

So I looked forward to (finally!) having an excuse to pick up this book before any of the others in my to-read piles (plural).  And it didn't take long before I realized why this book is considered a modern classic -- and why Atticus Finch is considered one of the greatest heroes of modern fiction & movies. I could not help but envision & hear Gregory Peck as I read along. :) 

There is something for everyone in this book:  it's a coming of age story and a morality play.  It's got mystery, history, racism, feminism, and even a tinge of Gothic horror. It's sometimes thought of as a children's book, and it's narrated by a child (or at least an adult looking back on childhood), but it covers some decidedly complex & very adult issues.  Which makes it a great selection for a book club discussion. 

Here is my question:
Atticus emphasizes to Scout the importance of reserving judgment until you have walked in someone else's shoes. All of us in the ALI community have probably wished that some people would have followed that advice and walked in our shoes before offering us their judgment or opinions on our personal situations (!).  But can you think of a time when you found yourself trying on someone else's shoes and considering a different perspective?

My answer: 

There are many times when something has happened in my life to make me look at someone I know in a different light. 

For example, as I've mentioned recently, we're getting ready to host about 45 (gulp) of my husband's relatives this weekend at an annual family get-together. I've been thinking back to the first time I met them all -- and I do mean all. It was my future BIL's 21st birthday, and dh decided it was time for me to meet his family.

We were both at different schools in southern Ontario, but met up on the train & headed into Toronto one very hot July Saturday morning, 30 years ago last month. Every single aunt, uncle and cousin from both sides of dh's extended Italian family turned out to celebrate BIL's birthday -- his 21st, his first since his & dh's mother had passed away, several months earlier (before I could ever meet her) -- and, I strongly suspect, to inspect the mangiacake girlfriend. ; ) 

Italian families were pretty rare in the small Prairie towns where I had grown up. And yet, there was something endearingly familiar in the large family gathering, everyone around me laughing and talking in a language I couldn't understand. I had flashbacks to my childhood -- dozens of aunts, uncles & cousins crammed into my Ukrainian grandparents' tiny farmhouse, speaking in Ukrainian while the smell of cabbage rolls permeated the air. 

When I got home that weekend, I called my mother & told her I had never given it much thought before, but I had a whole new sympathy for what it must have been like for her when she first met my dad's family. Even though they grew up only 20 miles apart, it was quite a different atmosphere from the largely Scandinavian community where she had grown up.

I can remember when Nia Vardalos's movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" came out, and reading article about why it was a huge hit among all kinds of ethnic groups -- it was because everyone has a family and could relate to some aspect of the story. Needless to say, I could relate. ; )

My dad's sister told me she loved the movie too, because it reminded her of bringing home her Scottish boyfriend. You know the scene where Toula's male cousins teach Ian Greek phrases that aren't quite what they seem? Apparently my dad & his brothers pulled the same stunt on my aunt's boyfriend (my uncle-to-be) 40 years earlier.

That's just one example that I could think of.  Now, tell me your stories. : )

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for To Kill a Mockingbird.  You can get your own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee at bookstores including Amazon.


  1. I am the eternal devil's advocate. It's very annoying, because I will occasionally take a side in an argument just to be contrary. But what it's good for is that I am usually able to see why the other side thinks the way it does. I don't always agree (like with the pro-lifers down here - I agree that life is very important. I don't agree that one life is more important than another), but I can usually see why someone would think that way. It makes me a much more empathetic person. Which is not to say that I am always empathetic - sometimes I am as judgmental as the next person. But I think I do a halfway decent job.

  2. So here's the thing: yes, I've tried to walk in someone else's shoes, but the problem with it being someone else's shoes is that I'm guessing -- still based on my life experiences and understanding of the world -- how THEY feel. I can list -- and even try to understand -- the other side of an argument. But that is very different from truly understanding what it is like to be poor like the Ewells or African-American like Tom Robinson. In both those cases, I'd be imagining what it is like to be them based on my understanding of poverty, etc. But it still comes from my understanding vs. someone else's.

    I think blogs are so powerful because they are an honest look, in someone else's words, at a life you're not living.

  3. To me, this is the best story ever written. If I could read only one book the rest of my life, this would be it. Love this as a book club pick! Everyone should read it. :)

  4. Classics. Both the movie and the book. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. Everyone should read this book once in their lifetime. This edition is nice. I really like the cover too.I am one of those who like to judge the print, if not the book, by the cover.