Harper Lee: From “Mockingbird” To Trayvon Martin
“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”–Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird
Most of us have read the classic book To Kill A Mockingbird, if not for pleasure than for a school assignment; it’s required reading in most schools these days. The stories of young Scout and her brother Jem, along with their lawyer father, a falsely accused African-American man, and a mysterious recluse named Boo all weave together to form a powerful tale about racial division, injustice, and what happens when we judge a person on appearances.
The book, which was published in 1960 and spawned a successful film starring Gregory Peck, has had an immeasurable impact on our society and the way we view things. Because of it’s brilliant subtext and great success, everyone has been dying to know a little more about the author, Harper Lee…only to be dissatisfied. She is well-known for shying away from any sort of spotlight and, after the book was published and gained popularity, all but vanished from the public eye.
But fans are about to get a rare treat, as tonight she is the subject of a documentary on PBS called “Hey Boo: Harper Lee And To Kill A Mockingbird” which tells her story and how one of the greatest books ever written came to be. The film was actually released to a limited amount of theaters last year and will no doubt find new life with a television audience.
In light of the recent tragic shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, the book has a new resonance, telling a story which is both old and new. It brings a renewed sadness to the incident and reminds us all of the decades-old struggle our society has endured to keep such crimes from happening, especially in the deep South. In a nation that has come so far in the war against racism, we are reminded that it is far from gone, and sadly it has taken the death of a young man to bring the issue to the forefront of our minds.
85-year old Lee, who has only published a few short stories since the instant success of To Kill A Mockingbird, still lives in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. “Hey Boo” airs tonight at ten p.m. on PBS.