Opinion: Writing to make a difference

Carley Hull is a senior news major and columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Carley Hull

The publisher Harper announced on Tuesday that “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee will publish her second novel “Go Set a Watchman” on July 14.

If you are trying to rack your brain as to who Harper Lee is, your high school English teacher probably made you read her novel that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Remember Scout Finch dressed as a ham for the Halloween pageant and the misunderstood boogeyman Boo Radley? Most importantly, do you remember the tragic racial prejudice against the innocent black field hand, Tom Robinson, whom Atticus Finch represents in court despite knowing a community and legal system are against him?

You should remember “To Kill a Mockingbird” because it’s a book that made a difference in people’s perceptions of their own country and didn’t brush problems of 1930s racism under the rug. 

Shortly after the novel was published in 1960, the Selma to Montgomery marches brought the civil right’s movement to a political and emotional climax, and eventually we evolved into the country we are today. But, we must not forget that mockingbirds in our society still exist, and we still have racial tensions that cannot be ignored.

There’s a reason Lee’s novel won a Pulitzer Prize as it illuminated the tragic reality of innocence destroyed by the evil of racism that she saw in her own southern Alabama town to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. “To Kill a Mockingbird” showed readers the harsh reality of America and today reminds readers of the horrible things that happened because of racism and still often happen today.

At 88 years old, Lee has a second chance to make a difference by giving readers a chance to experience the height of civil right’s movement with the now adult Scout returning to her Alabama home from New York 20 years later.

It’s no secret that Harper Lee went to New York to become a writer as a young adult, yet again dipping into her own life to help craft her fiction, but the origin of the book is surprising as it was actually written before “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Lee said in a statement released from the publisher Harper that after submitting “Go Set a Watchman” her editor persuaded her to write a novel from the point of view of young Scout. After that, the novel was left behind to pursue “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Despite the odd timeline of the novel, the time to be presented in the new novel is a time in America we cannot forget or ignore, especially with the increasing racial tension of today. I think we all need some reminding.