Thursday, January 17, 2013

Biography Thursday, 1.17.13 / From the Stacks

"T" for Thursday! Click to see.
I Am Scout: the Biography of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields, pub. 2008, call # B Lee

So we've all read To Kill a Mockingbird (or the SparkNotes, if we want to be honest). It's kind of a high school right-of-passage. It's one of those amazing novels that provides an excellent example of a whole slew of literary techniques, while still telling a cohesive, engaging story with poignant moral truths. In fact, it's a story that will likely stay with you for many years to come. It won a Pulitzer Prize the year after its first publication, and the following year, an Academy Award-Winning film was made of the novel. Oh, and it is among the most banned, challenged, and removed books in libraries across the U.S., even as recently as 2012 (ALA).

The issues that you find in To Kill a Mockingbird were very real and present at the time that Harper Lee was writing. "When To Kill a Mockingbird was topping best-seller lists in 1960, protesters were organizing sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters across the South. The civil rights movement was well under way" (NPR). And so maybe it isn't surprising that the novel was popular then, but it is amazing that the novel is still a high-school English class staple, and it has never gone out of print. In fact, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a 1999 Library Journal poll (LitLovers).

All of this background information brings us to this week's Biography Thursday selection: I Am Scout: the Biography of Harper Lee. The following introduction to the book will give you an idea of the fascinating bits of information that Shields has uncovered and depicted about the life of Harper Lee:
"To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most widely read novels in American literature. It’s also a perennial favorite in high school English classrooms across the nation. Yet onetime author Harper Lee is a mysterious figure who leads a very private life in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, refusing to give interviews or talk about the novel that made her a household name. Lee’s life is as rich as her fiction, from her girlhood as a rebellious tomboy to her days at the University of Alabama and early years as a struggling writer in New York City. 
In this riveting portrait, Charles J. Shields reveals the story of Harper Lee by piecing together hundreds of interviews with Lee's classmates, friends, and neighbors, and by delving into forgotten archives. The result is an in-depth look at the unconventional, high-spirited woman who drew on her love of writing and her Southern home to create an American classic that continues to speak to new generations of readers" (Book jacket-flap).
Finally, if you aren't already aware of Harper Lee's close connection with Truman Capote (yes, that Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood), then you should definitely consider reading this book.

~ Mrs. Z

P.S. If you're one of those who chose to read the SparkNotes, maybe it's time to consider reading the real thing. We've got plenty of copies of To Kill a Mockingbird at the LMC, in both book and audio format! : )

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