Saturday, July 30, 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Yes I know, it took me an awful long time to get to this book. I'm making great use of my public library's digital collection, but it often means I have to wait a while for books. I finally got it!

I began reading this book amid news reports of the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota. On and off that day, and still continuing, our news was filled with the protests of "Black lives matter". This was the backdrop to my reading of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.

It was with this frame of mind that I read how Jean Louise Finch ("Scout"), returned home from New York. Her homecoming gave me opportunity to reflect on Atticus, her father, and on all of her childhood memories. The amazing thing about reading is that the events of a book somehow transform into events that affect one's own life - and this was what I felt as I read Go Set a Watchman. It was almost as if I had come home too.

But in the midst of a country in turmoil over violence, and a very real recognition of the way that people are treated based on the color of their skin, it was hard to read. I want to believe we have come so far since the 1950s, and the events of this month make me question that, in many of the same ways that Scout questioned her own father's beliefs.

I didn't come to any brilliant conclusions, but reading this book did help me see how far we have yet to come in our country. If you haven't had a chance to read it, I recommend that you do. I believe David Ulin, book critic from the Los Angeles Times, has some interesting comments to make on this idea as well.

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