I am on spring break! Whoo hoo!!!
And while on spring break, I am also re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
TKAM has not been an easy feat; just ask my mom. Each day I ask her, is it me? This book is difficult! It got so bad the other night that in my dream, I heard someone – not sure who – say to me: "If students are using Sparknotes to understand the story, then they shouldn’t be reading it. There are parts of the book that need to be explained through a history lesson. There are also ways in which folks spoke to each other in the south, during those days."
My mother said, "watch the movie!" YIKES! Please don’t take me down that memory lane. I remember being in school, keeping my eyes closed – shut - during the movie. I also shut down every time my teacher would ask for a volunteer to read aloud, because I HATED hearing the N-word. We never used that language in our home, and in a book, I felt like everyone was talking about ME.
Since that time, in 11th grade, I swore off the last "book of torture" that I would ever read. Maybe I was rebelling against what was considered a ‘classic’ and what was considered, to me, a reality insult. Even today people say to me, "well that is history, Amy, and you can’t hide from the truths." My answer, I like to read what is relevant to me. I also want my children to see the world in a more global picture, so they can see how lots of slices of a pizza make up a pie, not just one sliver.
What I know so far is that Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Dill…I can not relate to, nor understand their language, so I am tempted to peek in Sparknotes. I guess that’s my fault.
Anyway, just so that it is clear, I have a great deal of respect for TKAM, but having read it when I was in 11th grade, left me horrified. Each day in class we were expected to read the story aloud, which made sense, because it was difficult reading. But each day, I would count the pages when the N-word was coming, and I knew I would be raising my hand to use the rest room. I wanted to crawl out of the classroom and I did. And while it was required reading, what are you going to do? I knew it was a ‘classic’ and I knew my opinion did not matter.
At the time, I found TKAM quite offensive, and because of the language and the role of stereotypical, southern black folks, I couldn’t appreciate the literary brilliance. Decades later…in comes my friend Arvind, over at 21 Apples, who writes a blog post…
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Arvind writes, "I’ve recently been engaged in fascinating conversations about evaluating curricular resources for bias and inclusivity. These came out of a conversation on whether To Kill a Mockingbird was an appropriate text for 7th grade students. The books uses the ‘n word’ many times and portrays black characters are uneducated and poor (yes, I realize I’m being somewhat simplistic in my summary). The book is also a “classic” of “American” literature – I put both of those words in quotation marks because there are real questions as to whose classic and whose America."
All I know is…the book still makes me feel uncomfortable, and it’s not a book I would recommend for my own children to read – at this stage anyway. Perhaps when they are at the graduate level, and understand the evolution of blacks in America.
Also, I wouldn’t ban it!