Sunday, July 11, 2010

God Bless Harper Lee

If you ask people to name their favorite books, odds are "To Kill Mockingbird" by Harper Lee is on most lists. Many of my writing friends claim it as one of their favorites. It's one of my favorites, too. Harper Lee's ground-breaking book, the only one she's ever published, became an instant best seller and a classic which has sold millions of copies, and it continues to make bestseller lists.

Fifty years ago today, on July 11, 1960, Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published. The following year she was awarded a Pulitizer Prize for fiction.

I read "To Kill a Mockingbird" in high school during the mid-1960s, a turbulent time for civil rights in America. I remember being impressed by the bravery of Scout and the wisdom of her father Atticus Finch.

Flash forward to the 1980s. My husband Walt and I and our two children Julie and Erik were living in Germany when Julie read "To Kill a Mockingbird" while she was in high school. For Julie, living overseas and being a teenager was a time of big hair, shopping, boys, and make-up, but it also was a time when we bonded through a book we both had read and liked.

A few years ago a thirty-something neighbor was out walking her new yellow lab puppy. When I asked her what the pup's name was, she answered, "Scout."

"From 'To Kill a Mockingbird'?" I asked.

A wide grin stretched across her face. "You're the first person who's made the connection," she said.

Our conversation switched from dogs to books.

This past year my granddaughter Cari read "To Kill a Mockingbird" while a high school freshman. At night while she worked on her English homework, we discussed the book. It brought back memories of when her mom, my late daughter Julie, and I talked about Scout, Boo Radley, and Atticus Finch.

Last week for my husband's birthday, Walt, Cari, Michael, and I all rode out to our place in Osage County. As we drove down winding country roads past farms and fields and cows and horses. Eleven-year-old Michael spotted a huge oak tree out in the middle of a field. He asked why it was there. Walt speculated that some farmers didn't trust banks and buried money and valuables around trees, but they wanted to be able to keep it in their sight.

Cari chimed in. "That tree reminds me of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and Boo Radley."

Much has changed over the past 50 years.

The book's cover has an updated look, but for me it will always be a book of special memories of times that connected me with with friends, neighbors, and especially loved ones.

So, Happy Anniversary to "To Kill a Mockingbird," and for creating such a wonderful story and such cherished memories, thanks and God bless Harper Lee!

19 comments:

  1. Oh Donna, what a beautifully written post! Thanks so much for sharing with us. I'm one of the millions who also loved/loves To Kill a Mockingbird....both the book and the movie. And since I'm from your same era, I, too, cheered for Atticus and hoped he'd win the case. Thanks again, Donna...I really loved this!

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  2. Lovely post! It really is one of those special books. There are so many layers to it, so many messages. I love it as well :)

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  3. Hi Becky,
    Thanks. Isn't it wonderful how one woman's book affected so many lives and created so many memories.
    The power of words is amazing.
    Donna

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  4. Hi Jemi,
    It is a special book for many reasons.
    Donna

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  5. Nice that you have shared family memories over a book! I believe stories bind us whether we make our own or share the stories of others. I love the Harper Lee story which includes her writing this great novel. I love that she and Truman Capote were childhood friends.

    The Sunday Morning program this morning paid tribute to TKAM and showed the festival that celebrates the 50 year anniversary...how wonderful any writer could write a book that "breathes" for so long and continues to do so!

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  6. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful book!!

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  7. Hi Claudia,
    The tribute program sounds great, and you are right about TKAM being a book that breathes life.
    Donna

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  8. Hi Tammy,
    Thanks for your kind words.
    Donna

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  9. OH, I'm sorry I missed the CBS Sunday Morning Show. That is one of THE BEST shows, and I try to watch it every week. One of these days, we'll actually break down and get the DVR-Tivo thingy, to record our favorite shows! :o

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  10. I'm one of those who LOVES this book. A few years ago I read a biography of Harper Lee...I think it was called "Mockingbird". Also very good.

    It's funny that two of my favorite southern writers only wrote one book...and both were blockbusters. Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell.

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  11. I love the book and the movie, too. I caught the last hour or so of the movie the other night and I was once again transfixed by both the acting and the layered complexity of a simple story well told.

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  12. It's so great how the book has survived generations. I love that Truman Capote and Harper Lee were friends. Have you seen the movie Capote? "To Kill a Mockingbird" is talked about in there. :)

    Margo
    http://margodill.com/blog/

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  13. My daughter read the book last year and loved it. It is timeless. I've always wondered why Ms. Lee never wrote another.

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  14. Donna, I'm kinda at a loss for words- but I'll try :-)

    One of my favorite books of all time-thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving us a beautifully written tribute to Harper Lee, your loved ones, and the everlasting power of words.

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  15. Hi Becky,
    I wish I had seen that show, too.
    Donna

    Hi Pat,
    There's something magical about those Southern writers.
    Two more of my favorites are Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty, oh, and Katherine Anne Porter.
    Donna

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  16. Hi Madeline,
    The book and the movie are classics.
    Donna

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  17. Hi Margo,
    Thanks for telling me about "Capote." I haven't seen the movie, but I'll check it out.
    Donna

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  18. Hi Lisa,
    It's great that your daughter loved the book, too. And sad that Ms. Lee hasn't written another book.
    Donna

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  19. Hi Cathy,
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.
    Like Ms. Lee you are a Southern writer who loves words--as well as being thoughtful and kind.
    Donna

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