Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The "N" Word

My son has been given the task of reading To Kill a Mockingbird for English. He does not read. To a parent who reads almost rabidly, this is gobstopping to me: not read??? I never understood why he did not enjoy reading. We've tried different books, different genres to limited success. He enjoys the heck outta manga, but they don't make To Kill a Mockingbird in Manga. So, we brought the issue up to his counselor because his reluctance to read this book is causing him to get behind in English.

After talking it out we realized that he could not utilize his brain to visualize the story while he read it. His counselor suggested the book be read out loud to help him visualize the story. So, I'm reading 2 chapters a day until it's done. Yesterday I read sitting crossed-legged on the kitchen carpet while he chopped veggies for Chicken & Dumplings.

When this book was written, it was normal to describe a black person using the 'n-word'. In the book, it gets used quite frequently. Now at first, I was really reluctant to even utter that word. I mean geez, do I have to? We're not a type of family that is racially prejudiced. As I say to my son, "I don't judge people on their color. I judge them on their personality. People can be assholes no matter what color they are." ok, well he gets the idea. But now, I say what's written. It's literature, I use the dialogue that is in the book as Harper Lee wrote it. The southern accent is a bit difficult to do-I'm from Wisconsin for cry-aye-aye.

As a High Schooler, I never had to read that book. I guess they figured the brainiacs had already done so. My take on the book is that it does have it's message; but it is dated. Isn't there a more updated take on the racial inequalities that these kids can read? Reading about the deep south in the 30's does no resonate with the usual high-schooler.

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