I finished Harper Lee’s new novel in 3 hours. With very few breaks. This was due to the fact that I made sure I had nothing else to do.
Do I believe she wrote it? Yes. Am I disappointed in it? Not at all.
This novel took me back to my childhood in Mississippi. I was born in 1972. So I missed the Civil Rights Movement and as a white little girl/tomboy, I have to admit that I was oblivious to the South’s history for quite some time. As I read Go Set A Watchman, my stomach was in knots because Jean Louise (and yes, I love that she has a double name like I do) finding out what her hometown had become in the 1960’s reminded me of my own intellectual awakening. Scout may be 26 when she begins to see, but we reacted very much the same even though I was much younger. I put the book down for few minutes at one point and tried to remember when my young eyes were opened to the realization of racism. Then it came to me. I was in kindergarten and an African-American young man and I were very close friends. I started referring to him as my “boyfriend”. That was not looked kindly on by some circles. I remember that making me furious and not understanding why that was the case. So TKAM was not my first brush with racism.
I spent years being angry about this and talking the talk to anyone that would listen. I still do. When I am visiting out of the South and say where I am from, I still get odd looks to this day. Scout’s Uncle Jack tells her “That’s the one thing about here, the South, you’ve missed. You’d be amazed to know how many people are on your side, if side’s the right word. You’re no special case The woods are full of people like you, but we need some more of you.”
And it’s true. The South has a terrible history that makes me angry and still things happen that infuriate me, but I would never live anywhere else. Because I am needed here. Thank you, Harper Lee. For reminding me. -Laura Beth Walker