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Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Turns 50

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Turns 50

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This summer celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel, which won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and became an Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck, has never been out of print. In fact, one million copies are sold each year in 40 languages. The Library of Congress even has said that “Mockingbird” is second only to the Bible as books most often cited as making a difference.

Author Harper Lee loved the movie. “I’ve had many, many offers to turn it into musicals, into TV or stage plays, but I’ve always refused,” she once said. “That film was a work of art.” Peck won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, the widowed attorney appointed to defend a black man accused of rape.

“It’s our national novel,” proclaims Oprah Winfrey.

“It changed how people think,” said former first lady and lifetime book lover Laura Bush at a national book festival in 2003.

To Kill a Mockingbird didn’t change everyone’s mind, but it did open some. And it made an impression on many young people who, like Scout, were trying to get a grip on right and wrong in a world that is not always fair. – from NPR

Another one of my very favorite passages in the book is a small one, but I’ve always loved the literary construct of it. We have the mysterious figure, Boo, who’s living next door. And then of course there’s the climactic episode: Jem is in bed, he’s been hurt, beaten up. What’s going to happen to him? And Scout goes in to see her brother. And there standing in the shadows is this mysterious neighbor. And she turns and says, “Hey, Boo.” I just love that moment. It’s such a personal connection, and she’s absolutely unafraid of him, which is what I love. And again, to go back to the small-town culture, every town has a Boo. People don’t know how to approach Boo in those small towns, in most instances. Scout did. I have used that phrase countless times in my own life; when I want to get someone’s attention, I’ll say, “Hey, Boo.” – from Tom Brokaw