Shireen Afzal is a senior at the Woburn Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada. She was one of two finalists in the 2015 Student Essay Contest. In this Q&A, she’ll share her thoughts on the contest, what motivated her, and give advice for students entering this year’s contest inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Arvaughn Williams is one of two finalists from the Facing History 2015 Student Essay Contest. He entered his spoken word poem as a student at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco, California. Arvaughn shares his thoughts about what the contest did for him and his advice for students entering this year’s contest inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird. Stay tuned for another Q&A with Shireen Afzhal, our other finalist from last year, for more encouraging words about entering the 2016 Student Essay Contest.
Harper Lee's death reminds us that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not only a classic work of American literature, but has also opened important conversations around the themes of race, justice, and morality. The day before Lee passed away, we published the following essay by writer Margaret Stohl, co-author of the bestselling young adult novel, “Beautiful Creatures,” on why “To Kill a Mockingbird” mattered so deeply to her. Our Teaching Mockingbird curriculum helps educators bring the historical context behind the novel into their classrooms.
I have a problematic relationship with conformity. Though I was born in Los Angeles, two generations of my family came from a small town in rural Southern Utah, and they carried the seeds of that community with them to California long after they left the town itself behind. As I grew up, I noticed that my family was nothing like our neighbors or my friends at school. We had different views, different beliefs, and different approaches to life. At the same time, the longer I lived in California, the less I fit in with my own family. That’s probably why, when I read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager, I felt an immediate connection to the novel’s main character, Scout Finch.
The foundation of a good story is a cast of characters that shape our thoughts about the world. That’s certainly the case for Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s beloved novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. As a young white girl, she is forced to question her community’s spoken and unspoken rules when her father defends a black man falsely accused of a crime in 1930s Alabama. She and her brother, Jem, struggle to define their identities in relationship to the values of their small, segregated Southern town.
In January and February, Barnes & Noble Booksellers is partnering with Facing History and Ourselves to promote our resources for teaching To Kill A Mockingbird to educators across the United States. Facing History’s Senior Program Associate, Laura Tavares, reflects on why Mockingbird is more relevant today than at any time since it’s original publication at the dawn of the American Civil Rights Era.
Six months ago, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman revealed a different side of the beloved Atticus Finch. Lovers of Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, were left confused as he is rendered a segregationist who clashes with his daughter over his racist beliefs. My colleagues and I saw this as an opportunity to explore Mockingbird even further. Since the book’s release, we immersed ourselves in this text to develop resources that can inform the way you read and teach Mockingbird in your classroom.
Winter is a great time to slow down, indulge in eating hearty food and curl up with a book that can transport you to another world, all from the comfort of your couch. So go on an adventure this winter. Hit the library, stop by the independent bookstore on the corner, toss a few items in your AmazonSmile shopping cart (when you do, a portion of your purchase can go directly to Facing History), or start downloading to your e-reader. Hand-picked by Tracy O'Brien, Director of Facing History and Ourselves’ library, these titles are guaranteed to transport, challenge, and inspire readers of all ages.
Like so many literature lovers, I’d been eagerly anticipating yesterday's release of Go Set a Watchman. For nearly two years, I’ve been thinking about the world of Maycomb as I worked with colleagues to create Facing History and Ourselves’ resource Teaching Mockingbird. I couldn’t wait to read Watchman, which has been described as a first draft or “parent” of To Kill a Mockingbird, to learn more about how Harper Lee first imagined beloved characters like Atticus, Scout, and Jem, and to see how she depicts Maycomb in the 1950s.
Facing History has eagerly awaited next week's release of Go Set a Watchman since its discovery was announced this past February. Today we were treated to a sneak preview with the release of the book's first chapter. As earlier media reports indicated, the book features an adult Scout returning to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father 20 years after the events of the original book. It is written in third person and therefore isn’t limited to Scout’s point of view.
Whether you’re on the beach or preparing your syllabus for fall, check out these nonfiction and fiction titles that have the Facing History and Ourselves Library staff excited for summer reading!
Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Civil Rights Movement, Books, English Language Arts, Poetry, Armenian Genocide, Race and Membership, Holocaust, Memoir, Survivor Testimony, History, Reading, Reading List
There are phrases you hear so often that they begin to lose their meaning. The words become part of a series, like "bite the dust" or "have a blast." The title of Harper Lee's 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird is like that for me, despite its profound impact on the way I think about the world.