This Is Not the Atticus You’re Looking For

Or, my thoughts on Go Set a Watchman.

Before we get into the book, a brief personal history: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time. Between the number of times I’ve taught it and read it myself, I know the book really well. And I love it.

A brief history of how this book came to be: Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman and sent it to her editor. He said that he liked the childhood stories of Scout better than the adult stories and maybe she should write a book of just those stories. This book became Mockingbird and the manuscript for Watchman was shelved and eventually put into a safe deposit box.

Fast forward to 2015, and the manuscript was discovered and it was decided that Watchman would be published. There’s been some controversy over how all of this went down (some saying that it’s a money-grubbing move by Lee’s caretaker). Lee is nearly ninety years old and some question whether or not she really knew what she was doing when she gave her blessing for the book to be published.

All of that being said, I wanted to read this book because I was most curious about where Lee’s journey of writing Mockingbird began. If the two books are really so different (and they are), how does the one connect to the other? What are the similarities? Was Lee’s voice the same in Watchman?

After reading it, taking notes (hi, teacher), and really letting the whole experience sink in, I have the following thoughts:

1) It’s not a sequel. 

It seems like there were many people who were hoping that since the events of this novel take place after Mockingbird this book would pick up a few years later and we’d get to see what the old gang is up to now. This is not the case.

It’s integral to remember that Watchman was written first, but Mockingbird is ultimately the book Lee wanted everyone to read. This is going to be really important to remember for point three.

2) It’s rough. 

Let’s bear in mind that this is a manuscript. It went through almost no editing (the publisher has said that they did some basic copy editing, but that’s it) and Lee’s smooth voice is most clear in the stories of Scout as a child. There’s a chapter devoted to Scout (now called Jean Louise by nearly everyone) and Uncle Jack. It’s one of the more confusing, convoluted things I’ve ever read. It seems as though Lee is making a point through Uncle Jack but it takes her forever to get there and you’re still not quite sure you’ve gotten it when you get to the end of the chapter.

If you can keep in mind that it’s not meant to be a polished novel, but rather the raw manuscript that it is, you’ll be okay.

3) Atticus is very different, but also the same. 

SPOILER ALERT (unless you’ve read anything in the news about Watchman and then it’s not a spoiler at all):
I think one of the things that has upset people the most about this book is the way that Atticus is portrayed as a racist. I mean, people who have named their children after this character are all set to head down to the courthouse and change their child’s name.

Yes, in Watchman he is a racist. We come to find out the only reason that he defended Tom Robinson (Lee doesn’t mention his name, but she does reference the case) is because Atticus is so loyal to the law that he defended Tom the way he did because it was his job and duty to do so.

BUT, let’s keep in mind that this is where Lee started with Atticus, not where she finished. She wanted to world to see the Atticus that defended Tom Robinson because it was the right thing to do and who told Scout she needed to stand up for what’s right in the world. Even in Watchman, he’s encouraging Scout to stand up for what she believes in — even if that means standing up to Atticus himself.

4) Jean Louise is exactly who she should be. 

Scout is clearly upset by the crumbling of her view of her father. Her whole childhood (and her adulthood up to this point), she idolized Atticus and finding out of his racist views shakes her to her very core. The fact that she is so shaken and knows what he believes is wrong shows us she is, indeed, her father’s daughter in the best way possible.

5) It relates to us now. 

Many have commented on how the race relations of the 1950s can relate to the state of our country today. But, I think the bigger issue we can connect with is the way the idea of states’ rights is handled in the novel. Even Jean Louise comments on how she was upset when blacks were given the right to vote. Not because they don’t deserve it (as Atticus and many others in the South see it), but because the rights were taken away from the states to make the decision themselves.

In addition, Uncle Jack tries to convince Jean Louise to come home. When she wants to know why she should surround herself by people who think things so different from her, he says:

“What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn’t give. He stays rigid. Doesn’t even try to listen, just lashes out.

You’ve no doubt heard some pretty offensive talk since you’ve been home, but instead of getting on your charger and blindly striking it down, you turned and ran. You said, in effect, ‘I don’t like the way these people do, so I have no time for them.’ You’d better take time for ’em, honey, otherwise you’ll never grow.

… the time your friends need you is when they’re wrong, Jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right –“

This made me think of how many of us have Facebook newsfeeds that are a little homogeneous and how many people we’ve “unfriended” (or who have “unfriended” us) because of the differing of our views. [Off of soapbox.]

6) There are several parallels to Mockingbird

One of the things I thought was most interesting were the clear literary parallels between the two novels. For example, there were several chapters with paragraphs that were almost verbatim what I’d read before in Mockingbird. There were also a few scenes that Lee seemed to have reworked for Mockingbird. For example, there’s a “coffee” that’s thrown in honor of Jean Louise (by Aunt Alexandra, of course), and it’s pretty clear that this scene turned into the chapter with the missionary tea in Mockingbird. If you don’t remember much of Mockingbird, I don’t know how significant these parallels will be to you, but anyone who’s a fan of Mockingbird will find them interesting.

So, the question  is… should you read it?

If you can keep all of the above things in mind and you can look at it from a literary perspective, it should be a good read. If you’re madly in love with all of the characters from Mockingbird and you’re SUPER EXCITED to see Scout all grown up… put the book down and walk away slowly.

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7 Quick Takes from the last three months

I’m working on finishing Go Set a Watchman and I’ll post my thoughts on it when I’m done, but it’s taking me a little while to digest. More on that to come.

In the meantime, here are seven completely random things in honor of Katherine turning THREE MONTHS OLD! How?! When?! Where did all of the time go?!

1. We went to the zoo a couple of times. 

My parents gifted us a zoo membership for the year, and it’s one of the best things! Mark and I went about every month before Katherine was born, and we’ve managed to go a few times since her arrival.

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The penguins were really close and Mark was delighted.
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Beast mode: babywearing and pushing the kiddo up the giant hill.

I know, there are no pictures of the animals at the zoo. But, you know what an elephant looks like, right? 🙂

2. We dressed up like really cute Cabbage Patch Dolls

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3. We went on a hike when it was really hot outside. 

You guys don’t even KNOW how hot.

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“Dada, catch up!”
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We had to smell ALL the flowers.
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Katherine’s there under the little white hat, I promise.

4. We protected the baby from falling off the couch. 

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5. We went to the beach with Ryan’s family.

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Sticks are his love language.

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I don’t remember what he was talking about, but he wanted it right THERE.

6. We had some pretty awesome ice cream. 

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Kid loves strawberries. Strawberry ice cream blew his MIND.

7. We learned about personal space. 

These all happened one after another.

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But, we eventually learned, and now it’s a little more like this:

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She’s still a little wary. Can  you blame her? 🙂

Looking for more snippets of other people’s lives? Go here.

Blueberries for Sal

We read a lot of books in this house.

This picture is from shortly after Katherine was born. I had one of those moments where it was “two quiet” (parents of toddlers, you know), and I set Katherine down and went back to Mark’s room to find out what he was up to:

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It was one of my prouder moments as a parent (also, sorry for the poor lighting… life as it happens).

Mark, like most toddlers, loves reading the same books over and over. One of his current favorites is Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, whom you might know from the book Make Way for Ducklings.

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Some good friends gave us the book before Mark was born. It’s very cute and all about this little girl going blueberry picking with her mother and meeting bears (that aren’t scary!) who are also picking/eating blueberries.

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The illustrations are simple and expressive.

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Last week, Ryan suggested I take Mark out for the morning since he and I haven’t gotten to spend much time with just the two of us since Katherine was born. It was a warm (soon to be hot!) July morning, so we went berry picking.

We first picked some raspberries and Mark did a good job for awhile. Then, he got tired and decided to pick up a stick and dig holes in the dirt instead. I totally didn’t mind and kept right on picking. (Note: there are no pictures of us picking raspberries because I forgot. Sorry.)

Then, on the way to the blueberries, every person we went by smiled at Mark and commented on how much fun he must be having. Sometimes, I think people see a correlation between a little boy’s similarity to Pigpen and his happiness. And they would be right.

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Mark was a CHAMPION blueberry picker. Much more at his height and come off the plant by the handful.

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And we had a GREAT time. Dirt and all!

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On our way back, Mark picked up rocks and threw them into the peach orchard over and over. I kept walking and called to Jim to “catch up”! So, he ran up to me and past me and turned around to say, “Catch up, Mama!” Thus, we have a new phrase
🙂

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Katherine’s Baptism (or: Photo Dump 2 of 2)

Two weeks ago, Katherine (or, Baby Kaferine as Mark likes to call her) was baptized.

It was all of the things it should be.

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Not only did she not cry AT ALL, but she smiled when the water was poured over her head. I think she thought it was bath time.
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Excuse the giant poofy sleeves that are blocking her face (seriously, how did no one tell me?!).
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Us with Ryan’s aunt, mom, and sister.

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Us with my Great Aunt Mary Lu, her friend John, and my mom.
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It was so, so fun to have my cousin, Kim, there! She couldn’t stay long, but it was wonderful to have another Pukstas in attendance!
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Godfather (James — former coworker and friend) and Godmother (Kim — one of my friends from college).
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Okay, so the bonnet isn’t really on the right way (babies are wiggly!), but here she is all holy and stuff! The gown is the one my siblings and I were baptized in and I made the bonnet especially for Katherine. 🙂
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So peaceful… I’m going to have to revisit these photos when she’s a toddler. 🙂
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Picture with a little more of the gown in it. I love the eyelet fabric!

So, you’re kind of updated and stuff now. Next up will be some fun stories and Mark quotes from the last month or so. And pictures of a kid eating popsicles. 🙂

Molly’s graduation (or: Photo Dump 1 of 2)

If you don’t like photos, these next two posts are just SO NOT for you. 🙂 I’ve finally managed to carve out a few minutes without the Tiny Person wanting me all the time (seriously, I love holding her, but my arms do need a break every so often!) and I’ve had a chance to look at, cull through, and work on some photos from the last couple of months.

Today’s post is all about… Molly and her graduation from college! My youngest sister graduated from the University of the Best City Ever (that’s their tagline, not mine) at the end of May. We took all four of us on a plane down to see her graduate and have lots of fun with family and friends.

Without further ado… the photos!

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We’re pretty proud of her!

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T
he whole family. 🙂

 

 

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Because I totally challenge you to find something cuter at a graduation than a toddler in a cap.
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We hug because we can.
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One of the many benefits of this trip was getting to introduce Katherine (at the ripe age of two weeks!) to so many of my family members. This is Katherine with my mom’s cousin Katy and her boys, Evan and Rowan.

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Evan and Rowan liked Katherine, but they were REALLY excited to play with Mark!
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Mark got his very first taste of Giorgio’s pizza.
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We stayed in this GREAT house not far from the apartment I lived in when I was a baby in San Francisco. We got to take Mark to the park that my dad used to take me to when I was a toddler; even better, Mark’s godfather Mike (who lives in San Francisco) came with us!
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This kid could swing for ever and ever Amen.

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I used to climb and play in these EXACT trees when I was Mark’s age. Much of the rest of the park has changed, but these trees are still there. Okay, no one but me cares about the park. Moving on…
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The graduate and her niece!
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My grandpa and my brother talking about something very deep and important.
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Katherine and her Great Aunt Jane. IMG_9612
I love my grandpa! 🙂IMG_9561
My grandpa and his great-granddaughter!
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Everyone toasting Molly!IMG_9576
Mark loves being scared (is he really my child?) and Nathaniel was only too happy to oblige by jumping out rom behind the door over and over again. IMG_9690

One of the other really cool things about the weekend was getting to celebrate three birthdays! Molly’s and my birthdays are a day apart and Laura’s is about two weeks later. I don’t get to celebrate my birthday with my family very often, so getting to see everyone and celebrate their birthdays too was great! 🙂

Okay, photo dump #2 (Katherine’s Baptism!) is coming soon, I promise!