Harper Lee died yesterday.
It’s hard to articulate why certain books have stuck with me . . . why certain stories feel deeply personal, like part of my own.
I think it has a lot to do with timing. If I first read To Kill a Mockingbird now, I don’t know if it would hold any importance to me. It’s well written and engaging, but I would probably focus on its historical value, its many incidents of censorship, and criticisms of the way it addresses racism. But that’s not how or when I read it.
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was barely a teenager. I was wrestling with a general disillusion and rage against injustice that originated partly from personal experiences and partly from adolescence. Of course Scout’s curiosity, mishaps, and tomboyish behavior won me over. (“Pass the damn ham.”) But it was Jem who was a companion in my anger and confusion. When he and Scout came home from the courthouse and he cried and fumed, I cried too, because I’d been in the exact same position.
It’s been said that we read to know we are not alone, and that is whyTo Kill a Mockingbird means so much to me. Jem Finch was a friend who made me feel that I was not alone in my growing pains.
For that: thank you, Harper Lee.