The book that changed my life was ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. Probably like many other secondary schools throughout the UK, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was one of the books that we had to study for our English GCSE and you know what required reading is normally like: boring. The books are nearly always terrible and you hate the fact that you need to read it ten times so that you can get that good grade. With ‘TKAM’, I read it ten times, but not because I felt like I had to: it’s because I wanted to.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘how unoriginal to pick this book’.
Guys, this book is the thing that made me fully aware of the racial issues and prejudice that have been in the world for centuries and that are still going on today – in the 21st Century.
I was so captivated by the story of Scout, Jem and their Father – Atticus Finch. I was moved by the way Atticus raised his children to see the good in people and that you “never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Published in 1960, ‘TKAM’ reflects the racial prejudice of the time and portrays the racist thoughts of the society during those times. Even though the book was published in 1960, it’s actually set in the early 1930s during the Great Depression. During the Depression, it was the African-Americans that were hit the hardest and at least half of them were out of work. White people started to call for black people to be fired from their jobs as white people didn’t want to work with black people. It was the fear of the unknown. Sound familiar?
I was sixteen. I wasn’t racist; I have never been racist, but ‘TKAM’ opened my eyes to the world of pain and neglect that different races and cultures have felt, it opened my eyes to the stigma that surrounds a lot of these cultures. It may sound young and naive of me to think ‘why can’t everyone just love each other?’ but is it not true? Why can’t we just accept people for the colour of their skin or the religion that they practise? Why can’t we accept the certain clothing that their religion requires? I have never understood – and will continue to not understand – why people can’t see past the colour of someone’s skin. And ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ helped me understand. It helped me realise that I am very privileged, I fit comfortably into the box of a white, heterosexual female. But it’s what I do with that privilege that means something. I could sit back and not do anything whilst all this hate is boiling over or I could use my voice and my social platforms to do something about it. So I decided to do something about it.
If you’ve never read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because it’s a ‘school text’ then fair enough, I understand that it is on a school syllabus and that might stop you from reading it. But ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is so relevant to today’s society as well and the teachings from the book can be applied to now. Since I was sixteen years old, Atticus Finch has always been my role model and I have lived by his teachings, I don’t care that he’s a fictional character. Harper Lee created a piece of art that is timeless. A piece of art that will always be relevant.
Do you have a book that changed your life?