A powerful book about growing up and making sense of the world that I first read while I was growing up: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Mockingbirds do no harm to anyone and so should be left alone. In To Kill a Mockingbird Scout Finch learns that when we fear someone because they are differnt, we often don’t realise when they are just a mockingbird who means us no harm.

I first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in year 10 and it was the first really decent book I got to read for high school english (the junior syllabus really wasn’t inspiring – in year 8 we had to read an incredibly dull book about a rock that ate sheep!). Mockingbird is an incredibly nuanced exploration of race and racism, fear and difference, set in mid-20th century Alabama. The heaviness of the subject matter is beautifully handled by exploring it through the eyes of the young Scout Finch, growing up in a town where tensions come to the fore when her lawyer father takes on the legal defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Scout’s age, curiosity and directness set the tone of this novel and add helpful layers to the themes. Even if you were forced to read this at school and hated it, it’s worth a revisit in adulthood. I appreciated it at 15 but appreciated it more deeply in my 30s.

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