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Worth Reading: Harper Lee


"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

Louisiana, 1995. Texas, 1996. Ontario, 2009. Mississippi, 2017. These are a few of the times and places Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned. The novel, published in 1960, has met widespread disrepute since the 1970's. It has been taken off of bookshelves, removed from reading lists and syllabi, kept away from students' impressionable minds.            

Scout spends a good two-thirds of the novel listening. And so, over the course of the story she observes, offering her own opinions and views about matters but nonetheless clearly still a child learning to find and stand by her own beliefs. It seems like Scout’s transformation should be obvious and central to the plot of the story. But for me, her metamorphosis is subtle, as perhaps a person’s change of heart would be. Shifting and changing in slow movements like the hands of a clock, seemingly imperceptible but moving just the same.                    

Truth is rarely easy to swallow, rarely comfortable. And that is where many have issue with Lee’s novel. She did not shy away from truth. She could not, she lived it. But I would hope that many skeptics would change their tune if they took into consideration when To Kill a Mockingbird was written. Lee penned a present truth, calling into question the very framework of the society she grew up in. By doing this she challenges the reader to bring about a world that acknowledges those who are shoved into the shadows, speaks for those who are made silent, one that battles stagnate indifference.                      

Does Lee make the reader uncomfortable? Yes. But the reader should be uncomfortable. The reader should re-evaluate, doubt, wonder, squirm, reread. Without these discomforts, we will more readily repeat the atrocities we try so hard to forget.