I don’t have favorites. My kids used to ask me all the time: “What’s your favorite color? Your favorite food? Favorite flower? Movie? Song? Band? …” Their inquiries were relentless, but my boys know better than to ask anymore. Not because I told them to stop asking, but because my answer is always the same: I don’t have favorites … Although, some days I do prefer one child over the other, depending on who’s pissing me off less. Just keeping it real, people. Don’t judge.
But as I write this, I know that I’m lying. I do have a favorite. A favorite book — To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it for the first time when I was 11 or 12 — a little young, given the theme, but my dad (an English teacher) knew I could handle it. I watched the 1962 movie adaptation with Gregory Peck soon thereafter (also phenomenal) and it only cemented my belief that To Kill A Mockingbird was the best book in the whole wide world. It still is. The story, the characters, the language, the message … It was so artfully written, so realistic, so engaging and so insightful that despite the fact that it’s setting, characters and conflict were paradoxical to my own childhood in every possible way (Long Island, NY v. small town Alabama, 1980s v. 1930s, girly girl v. tomboy, etc.), I could relate to it. I could understand and empathize. I admired Atticus so much that I considered naming my first child after him. Atticus, or possibly Scout. Ultimately, neither name was chosen for either of my kids, but that’s a different post for another day. Back to the book.
There’s another reason why I love this classic so much, beyond its academic excellence. It’s because of my dad. To Kill a Mockingbird was/is one of his literary favorites, too. Sharing his love of this book makes me feel connected to him. In some ways, I see him as Atticus and me as Scout (I guess that makes my sister Jem and my mom Calpurnia!), but it’s more than just a father/daughter association. Our bond over the love of this book, it’s characters and it’s message is unifying on a different level. It’s cerebral. It’s mature. It’s ideological. It’s special.
Harper Lee died this morning, peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 89. She gave the world a literary classic that will stand the test of time. She gave me my one and only favorite — and a bond with my father that I will always cherish. Thank you, Nelle Harper Lee. Rest in peace.