To Kill a Mockingbird
arts & entertainment
A classic novel turns 50
WHEN HARPER LEE’S novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published in 1960, it was quickly recognized as a modern classic and has ince become an enduring part of 20th-century American litera- ture, earning numerous awards for the author and novel, includ- ing the Pulitzer Prize. The book has been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 30 million copies and was made into a hugely successful film starring Gregory Peck. The novel takes place during the Great Depression in the fic- tional town of Maycomb, Alabama. Central to the story are lawyer Atticus Finch, his two children, Scout and Jem, their friend Dill and a reclusive neighbor known as “Boo” Radley. The Finch family gets caught up in small-town drama when Atticus accepts a case in which he defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. This year marks the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird. Below, newsman Tom Brokaw looks at the cultural importance of the novel, while author Jennifer Haigh, in a Costco Connection exclusive, addresses the impact the book had on her.—Stephanie E. Ponder ;
Harper Lee poses in the Monroeville, Alabama courthouse in May 1961.
COUR TES Y OF SCOUT, ATTICUS AND BOO B Y MAR Y MCDONAGH MURPHY
Mockingbird’s cultural impact
By Tom Brokaw
I WAS STILL IN COLLEGE when To Kill a
Mockingbird came out in 1960. I remember it had a
kind of electrifying effect on this country; this was a
time when there were a lot of good books coming
out. The ’60s were very ripe. We were reading a lot
about race, and we were reading what they call literary fiction now. William Styron was writing, James
Baldwin was writing essays, and then this book just
ricocheted around the country.
It was one of those memorable pieces of literary
fiction that came along at an impressionable time in
my life, and also in the country’s life. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. had already started the civil-rights
movement at that point, we were paying attention
on national television every night on the network
news to what was going on in the South and this
book spoke to us.
I had always been interested in race and racial
justice, but mostly it was with my nose pressed up
against the glass, looking at the South from a long
way away. Because I lived in construction towns, we
had a lot of workers who came from the South. They
were all white, and, sorry to say, a number of them
were pretty redneck. It just didn’t comport with my
family’s view of how Negroes should be treated.