Tribute-Harper Lee

Harper Lee quote posterAs many of you know, we lost a true literary great yesterday—Harper Lee—author of the iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird died at the age of 89.

Born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, Miss Lee later worked as an airlines reservations clerk while pursuing a writing career. It was at this time she wrote and later published To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel about a small-town lawyer named Atticus Finch defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. To Kill a Mockingbird was not told from Atticus’s point of view, but of his tomboyish daughter, Jean Louise, better known as Scout.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year and was both a critical rave and successful bestseller. In 1962 the film adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout was released. Like the novel, the film was both a critical and commercial triumph.

Harper Lee TKAM

However, Miss Lee did not take to celebrity. She was a quiet and very private person who found fame quite off-putting giving her a bit of a Greta Garbo mystique, which is quite refreshing in our age of table-turning “real” housewives and people with the last name Kardashian.

Lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird pined for Miss Lee to write another novel and for decades this wish seemed like a pipe dream. But in February of last year, the world was shocked when the publishing giant Harper Collins imprint Harper’s announced they were going to publish a manuscript of Miss Lee’s that she had written in 1957. This novel, called Go Set a Watchman also became a best-seller.

But it is To Kill a Mockingbird that will truly be Harper Lee’s legacy. It has been translated into countless languages, has been called the best novel of the 20th Century by Library Journal, read and discussed in most high schools and has countless fans, both famous and unknown. To Kill a Mockingbird has also inspired many related books, stage plays and documentaries.

It’s no secret to my readers To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee are close to my heart, inspiring both a Retro Reads and a Reading to Reels post. There are no words I can find at this time to express my love and appreciation for Miss Lee’s talent and her iconic novel other than a mawkish paraphrased quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, “Stand up, people. Miss Harper Lee has passed.”

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***Great news. To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee to release second novel later this year!***

Roxanne Gay, author of Bad Feminist and all-around bad ass, is writing a column about working women for Fortune magazine.

Here is Ms. Gay’s first column.

Colleen McCullough’s obit. Sure she was a best-selling author, but too bad she wasn’t a hottie.

Writers, maybe you should just give it up. Hmm, I can think of a few writers who should have taken this advice.

Is Hollywood opening its mind to novelists? Sure, looks that way.

Would you pay money to read the hateful, bigoted screeds of the Thinking Housewife? Nope, I didn’t think so. But apparently some people like hateful, bigoted screeds. FYI, if people don’t pay up the Thinking Housewife she’s going to pull the plug on her blog. I bathe in your tears, bitch, I bathe in your tears.

Book Marks

turns-out-i-rock-the-houseOld School YA that should never go out of print.

Yes, Millennials can read something longer than a text message. And they might even read more than older generations.

I must have this t-shirt.

Are you back in school? Are you a parent of someone back in school? Do you just love books? Well, here are the perfect school supplies.

Very cool news for Dr. Seuss lovers. And did I ever tell you that the late, great Dr. Seuss and I share a birthday? I’m much younger (and still alive).

Book Marks

bookmarkHarper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird will finally be digitalized in e-book form.

Musings on whey we love eight of Judy Blume’s books. And the books that shaped us as women (including one iconic Judy Blume book).

Douglas Coupland, author of the Gen X classic Generation X, claims what people said about Generation X-ers is now being said about Millennials. In other words, same shit, different generation.

When I was a teen, I the only way to be a part of rock and roll was to become a groupie. Sure, if I had any musical talent I could have taken up guitar and become the next Joan Jett. Sadly, I thought I would have to rely on other, ahem talents, to get close to rock and roll greats. Thank goodness I found out about rock critic Lisa Robinson who wrote about the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and U2. I learned you can hang out with the boys who rock and not wear your panties around your ankles. Now Ms. Robinson has chronicled her rock and roll adventures in her memoir, There Goes Gravity. I so have to read this book.

Today begins the three day event of “We Need Diverse Books” campaign, which brings up the need to validate our diverse culture and heritage through books and other literary means.

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cropped-reading_is_coolAre conservative books an embarrassment to the publishing industry? Well, considering the publishing industry thought Bristol Palin was worthy of a memoir I’d have to say it’s “Yes!” If I want to know the musings of a dumb, uneducated girl who got knocked up in a tent, I’d go to Wal-Mart or watch “Jerry Springer.”

A prequel to Gone With the Wind focusing on Mammy to be released in October. Hmm, I wonder if it will be a load of shit like the Gone With the Wind sequel Scarlett?

Mark you calendars for April 23rd. Amy Poehler will host World Book Night as honorary chairperson. Books and Amy Poehler? This is my idea of heaven!

Two of Harper Lee’s letters to be auctioned off.

Are self-help books more about self-hurt when it comes to economic strife and income inequality?

As Women’s History Month comes to close, let’s ask ourselves if we’ve read these great books written by women. Wow, I have some catching up to do. My score is embarrassing low. Yikes!

 

 

 

Retro Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdWhen I was younger I looked at classic literature the way I looked at eating my vegetables, good for me but not exactly fun. I much preferred to read my Judy Blume books and other assorted YA novels, trashy reads like VC Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic or copies of Rolling Stone, Spin and Star Hits.

Then for some reason I decided to read Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird proved to me that classics weren’t just something I had to read; classics were something I wanted to read. (And yes, I now eat my vegetables, thank you very much).

Published over 50 years ago, To Kill a Mockingbird portrays a very specific moment in time, the deep South in the era of Jim Crow and years before the Civil Rights Movement. It is also the story of a family living in a small town in Alabama, and told through the point of view of one singular little girl, Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout.

Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father Atticus Finch, a local attorney. The Finch’s black maid, Calpurnia, is a stern yet loving presence in the Finch’s lives.

Scout navigates her small world of school, family life, her budding friendship with a boy named Dill and admonishments from her concerned elders about her unladylike ways. However, she’s also becoming aware of a bigger world around her. She and her brother are both intrigued and frightened by the town recluse Boo Radley. Is he truly as horrible as the townspeople claim? And Scout and Jem are also learning that life isn’t always fair and just.

Their father has just been assigned an insurmountable task-defending a local black man named Tom Robinson against a false rape charge. This was time when a black man could be lynched for even looking at a white woman. In the court of public opinion, Tom is guilty and should probably fry.

Tom’s accuser is Mayella Ewell. Mayella, and her violent and abusive father, Bob, are considered the town trash. Just like many of the black families in town, the Ewells are looked down upon, yet the false word of one white woman takes precedence over a black man’s innocence.

Mayella may be a liar, but she is also a victim of both her viciously cruel father and a time when potential rape victims were often treated as criminals themselves . Atticus treats her with decency while questioning her about the crime, yet is stalwart in getting out the truth and defending his client, a devoted family man. Atticus digs for the truth but is also compassionate and fair. And though Atticus knows getting a “not guilty” verdict will be incredibly difficult, he remains stalwart that this is a case worth fighting-for Tom Robinson and his family and for his own integrity as an attorney and as a father.

Scout and her brother are allowed to attend the trial, and are thoroughly drawn into the proceedings (as is the reader). Just as Scout and Jem learn that Atticus is so much more than just their father, and justice and fairness are worth fighting for. They also learn the importance of empathy, truly putting yourself in another person’s shoes. And it isn’t long before they learn that things aren’t always what they seem when they have a chance meeting with Boo Radley. These are important lessons we must all learn, and To Kill a Mockingbird conveys this with both simplicity and elegance.

What struck me while reading To Kill a Mockingbird once again is how both timeless and timely the story is. We are still dealing with many of the same issues, especially when it comes to race, in 2013 (no racism hasn’t ended because we have a black President).

What is also amazing about To Kill Mockingbird is Ms. Lee’s commendable talent as a writer. She writes with clarity, a certain richness and a lack of pretense. Not one passage rings false, and every character is fully drawn, not just the main characters. I felt as if I actually knew these people. It’s no wonder Hollywood made To Kill a Mockingbird into a notable film just years after the book’s initial release.

To Kill a Mockingbird also inspired several non-fiction books about the book and Harper Lee and the documentary by Mary McDonagh Murphy, Hey, Boo:Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

The famously reclusive Harper Lee only wrote one book, but what a book it is. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book to be read often and completely cherished.