Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

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Where to begin on this sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird?  I guess, to begin with, it is a typical sequel, which is to say that it is not nearly as great as the original.  Few books can be, though.  On the other hand, it is a fascinating and horrifying commentary on the White, Southern perspective on segregation/integration and the resentment toward the Supreme Court’s decisions’ overriding of states’ decision-making.

Jean Louise, or Scout, as she was called in her youth, is visiting her home town for a 2-week vacation from her new home in New York City.  She is returning to her father, now riddled with arthritis, her aunt who has not lost her prudishness, and her dear friend, Henry, who is hankering to marry her.  She believes she will slip back into the familiar rhythm of her home, until she finds a repulsive pamphlet advertising a meeting in support of maintaining segregation.  Hiding in the back of the courtroom where the meeting was held, she is stunned to see her father and boyfriend sitting in the front row.  As her world is rocked, she is forced to reconcile her idea of who her father is with who her really is.

The themes in this story are all too relevant today.  Race is front and center in the news everyday and it appears we have made only baby steps in progress toward justice and equality.  Even in this story, where Scout is supposedly arguing to defend Blacks in the South, she still espouses such prejudice and the belief, for example, that Blacks could never be in positions of authority.  There is the assumption that there are inequalities that are inherent rather that imposed and I think this is really what underlies prejudice.

I would say this is an articulate piece of historical fiction – but unfortunately it is neither strictly historical nor fiction.

 

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