Posts Tagged ‘Harper Lee’

On this date in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama.

A few days after she passed away in 2016, Berkeley Breathed published the above tribute, and it’s my favorite. It still brings tears to my eyes.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important books in my reading life. I am not sure how many times I have read it — at least five. (The only book I can think of which I may have read more times is Charlotte’s Web.)

Mockingbird is my touchstone for empathy and self-respect. It is my reminder to treat others with dignity and respect even (and perhaps especially) when they don’t extend to you the same courtesy but not at the expense of your own self-respect and personal convictions. You still need to stand your ground, and you need to be able to live with your actions and their consequences. Just because a point of view or course of action works for most everyone else doesn’t mean that it has to work for you.

It’s a tough balance, but it is one I work towards every day. It may be time for another reading.

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Despite what various purveyors of school supplies probably want you to think, it’s a bit early to be thinking back to school thoughts, but I found the following while cleaning out e-mail, and it seemed like a fun thing to share.  If anyone else wants to share scholastic (or not) formative book memories, feel free.

E-mail originally written 5 February 2011:
Although I like writing about books (and music and movies for that matter), I was never much for book reports.  I think that second grade might have been the first year I had to write them because I have several memories of never quite getting it right.  I either included to much detail or not enough.  And then one day I got in trouble for (I think inadvertently because I don’t recall doing it deliberately or to get out of my own assignment) using a significant portion of the blurb on the back of _Superfudge_ by Judy Blume in my own report.  I think that it made sense to me because it seemed to have exactly what the teacher wanted.

Wait.  I take that back.  It was third grade.  Not second grade.
The too much detail mostly came from wanting to share the complete experience of a book I had read — such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — and which I had enjoyed, or which had made a strong impression on me.
I don’t necessarily remember a whole lot else about grade school, but I have lots of memories of reading and books.  Fifth grade was The Red Pony by Steinbeck, and an abridged version of A Tale of Two Cities.  Sixth grade was All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott and To Kill a Mockingbird as I recall.
Charlotte’s Web is one of the few books I have read more than once, and I have read it probably half a dozen times.  Second grade might have beenStuart Little.  I remember a teacher reading it to the class.  I never could get through The Trumpet of the Swan.  James and the Giant Peach was another book I heard read aloud in second grade.
I remember Ann Burns giving me a copy of Peter Pan.  And Willow giving me a copy of The House of the Spirits.  I remember Just So Stories.  I remember Beatrix Potter and Madeline L’Engle and Saturday trips to the library.  Books and stories have been the constant in my life for as long as I can remember.
A while ago I came across a book titled Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde.  Oscar Wilde is one of those literary figures I have always wanted to know more about and read more by.  I am not so much interested in the scandalous bits as I am his library and how much literature, reading and writing were so much a part of his life, his very being.  He is up there with Tennessee Williams’ notebooks and the diaries of Virginia Woolf.  Dashiell Hammett was a great letter writer, and the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway intrigue me as well.  I like seeing them on my shelves next to Homer and Shakespeare.
I like reading what famous writers (or even just writers I enjoy reading) have to say about reading and about books they love.  Allende’s The Sum of Our Days is a wonderful memoir because of the way that her writing is the constant through everything else that happens.  I should send it to you if you haven’t already read it.  I have her other personal/non fiction writing, but I haven’t read it yet.
The letters between Julia Child and Avid Devoto are a complete delight to read.  I should plan another day trip to D.C. so that I can go to the Smithsonian and see the famous kitchen.  I did it a couple of summers ago to go to the National Book Fair, which was held on the national mall.  I went to the talks I wanted to hear and then wandered around the city.
Many of my “friends” on the ubiquitous social network (to which I no longer belong) were famous people I have never even met, but a lot of them post about writing as well as their lives.  The social networking site I actually prefer, however, is goodreads.com.  I have author friends there, too.  It’s all about books.  You get to see what your friends are reading, what they have read, what they want to read, and how they rated or what they wrote about various books.  It’s fun.
I like the book world.  Movies and music are good, too, but books are still my favorite.

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