This is the heart of my journey. Monroeville, Alabama, home of Nelle (Ellen, spelled backwards, pronounced NELL, NOT Nellie) Harper Lee, author of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and her friend Truman Capote (aka Dill, in the book) whom Lee helped write IN COLD BLOOD (not that he gave her much credit for it, at all). It’s a novel that hit the nerve of a nation and, apparently, still does. Which is because we’re still not over the issues raised, in spite of what some may think. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing a personal journey as well as a piece of culture. Even the movie, an Academy Award winner from the 1960’s, is excellent:
When I showed it to my kids and they heard it was a “mom movie” from “olden times” and was in black & white, they were initially reluctant . . . but they were captivated from the first scene. We watched the original black & white but when it was over, my son was convinced it had been in color. It was for him. :o) It’s that good a movie.
As with many people, the novel was an important part of my upbringing. Having lived in South Africa under apartheid, I understood racism (as well as any kid can). I identified with Scout’s pure voice, honest thoughts, and forthright words. I even became a lawyer. When I was writing MOCKINGBIRD and reconciling the VA Tech tragedy, while trying to capture the world through the eyes of a child with Asperger’s, I kept hearing Scout’s voice in my head. That’s why I thought of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and Caitlin’s nickname (Scout), and the theme itself: it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. I’m quite sure that Nelle Harper Lee is sick of hearing about the book and how much we love it and how much it inspired us and why hasn’t she written another, yada, yada, yada. But she can’t be sick of the fact that it makes us think. It makes us question. It makes us want fairness and justice. It makes us try to be more like an Atticus. What a world that would be. Thank you, Nelle.