Lovely piece about this author's meeting with Harper Lee.
The world is atwitter in anticipation of Lee's novel, to be released this week. I read an early review, but it felt more like a comparison of Lee's two novels rather than a review of this latest one. I wondered many times if the reviewer had actually read the novel, or if he/she (didn't look to see who wrote it) had promised not to reveal too much --- most of the quotes seemed to be from To Kill a Mockingbird not Go Set a Watchman.
This piece on the "racism" of the older Atticus Finch was somewhat more interesting on the nuances possible if you could get over your nostalgia for the Mockingbird Atticus. Of course, the racist constructs we live within are undeniable -- and left unquestioned bloom in our souls even though we may not want to admit it. As a nation, we carry racism in our social DNA, whether we like it or not. Through privilege, again whether we acknowledge its existence or not, we are complicit in that societal racism. We have created so many explanations for our attitudes that promote discrimination that we have a hard time even admitting to the existence of racism -- until it explodes in our faces. What it made me think more about what it means to age than what it means to be racist.
Also, that article brought home much of what I have been living with my parents, especially my dad, in their 80s. The narrowing, the hardening, the anger and grief caused by the trials of aging -- these realities affect, or maybe even change, the ones we love, have known and respected all of our lives, into scared beings who exhibit these challenges through narrow-minded and often prejudiced viewpoints. These opinions, in my case, are ones I never heard growing up ... and I look at this man, my father, and wonder how he got here -- I have to remind myself that it is mostly fear and helplessness and fear of helplessness that drive his brain right now. It seems, then, completely appropriate to me that the older daughter's view of her father would be radically different from that of the young daughter in Go Set a Watchman. Both father and daughter were different people. And, as a metaphor for race relations in the South both also work -- the closer we get to true integration the more fear rears its ugly head. Fear, real or perceived, drives our interactions much more than we are willing to admit to ourselves or others. I haven't decided if I will read the book -- I am sure, though, that it will not change my opinion of To Kill a Mockingbird or its author.
Dementia -- or the aging of our brains -- can take different turns, too, and this article is a sort of* lighter look at that other turn. (*sort of: I dislike how often we soften every thing we say with SORT OF, but in this case, I meant it not just out of habit). The article reminds us that the best way to deal with this loss in its embodiment (that is the loved one who is losing his/her memory) is to actually interact with the person in front of us, and not our memory of the person who used to be there. Of course, this author's experience of dealing with a softer personality is different from dealing with the fearful, narrowed, seemingly prejudiced or racist personality. The example is still instructive.
I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this article because the topic, twins switched at birth and raised as fraternal instead of identical twins meet up, but it was, again, too long, and I skipped over some parts to get to the story of the brothers... but I did read it to the end.
This is a heartbreaking story about an adopted person and his mother searching for, and finding, each other. It is not too long and though it brings in the larger issues around this personal story, it does not meander or lose focus - and thus it does not bore the reader. BRAVO!
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