My most distinct memories of hearing the book read aloud all involve the child characters in the story: Scout, the protagonist; Jem, Scout’s older brother; and Dill, their neighbor. I generally identified with boy characters during my childhood, but I remember liking Scout the most of all of the characters in the book. I liked Scout’s inquisitiveness, her playfulness, and her sense of fairness. Her willingness to be daring appealed to me as a boy and still appeals to me. In fact, Scout was one of my favorite fictional characters from my childhood.
There was also something special about having my father read this book aloud to my siblings and me. As everyone knows who has read this book, To Kill a Mockingbird celebrates the relationship between a father and his children. The fact that my father chose to share this book with my siblings and me caused me to associate my father with Scout’s father–Atticus Finch. My father was an eccentric dentist, not a small-town lawyer like Atticus, but I know that my father shared Atticus’s sense of decency and commitment to due process. Even as a child, I understood that this book clearly meant a great deal to my father, and in my childhood mind, I sort of conflated Atticus Finch and my father.
I have since reread the book several times as an adult, and a few years ago I taught it in a graduate seminar on Growing Up in the South. As an adult, I am more aware of the historical and political elements in the book, but I still think that Lee’s depiction of child characters is one the most appealing aspects of Lee’s novel. Her child characters ring true. Scout, Jem and Dill still seem like real people to me. I will always feel a sense of debt to my father for introducing me to my friend Scout. As far as I am concerned, Scout and I are still friends.
CLGO Book Drive — Recently the Children’s Literature Graduate Organization (CLGO) has partnered with Smart Start of Mecklenburg County to promote child and adolescent literacy by hosting a book drive. CLGO will be receiving new or gently used books throughout the end of February and beginning of March. Students, faculty and staff can deliver new or gently used books to the Department of English in the box designated “CLGO Book Drive.”
All donated books will be delivered to Smart Start of Mecklenburg County as part of their Reach Out and Read program- a national evidence-based model that makes early literacy a standard part of pediatric primary care with a special emphasis on children who grow up in low-income communities. More specifically, books will be delivered directly to CMC North Park where medical physicians partner with families to develop critical early reading skills in children.
Quirky Quiz Question — Harper Lee based some of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird on real people. The character of Dill is based on her childhood friend who went on to become a famous author. Does anybody know the name of the real person upon whom the character of Dill is based?
Last week’s answer: The Audacity of Hope
President Obama’s Dreams from My Father is not the only book he wrote. In 2006 he published a book about “reclaiming the American dream.” Does anybody know the title of this book?