Sunday, April 3, 2011

Black and white - book recommendations

In term 1, Lesley-Anne studied the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee for literature. This book is one of those classics that never seem to leave the classroom. For as long as I can remember, secondary school students have been studying this book for literature.

The novel deals with civil rights and racial bigotry in the segregated southern US of the 1930s. The protagonist is Scout Finch, who sees her father, Atticus, strive to prove the innocence of a black man accused of raping and beating a white woman. This book was made into a landmark movie, starring a young and dashing Gregory Peck.

I first read the book in my teens (no, it wasn't my literature text) but it wasn't till I read Alex Haley's life-changing Roots back in the 1990s that I became fascinated with this historical aspect of race relations in the US.

I decided to blog about this because I recently read another terrific book on this issue. It's called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi, where black women were hired to look after white households, Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is home from college and anxious to become a writer. She begins to collect the stories of the black women and enlists the help of Aibileen, a maid whose has raised 17 children, and her friend Minny. The stories reveal the best and the worst of human relations at a time where racial tensions were high.

It was a book I couldn't put down. I'm finding it harder and harder nowadays to find truly engaging books. At a recent book sale, a lady next to me scanned the aisles and boxes of books and commented, "Too many people are getting published." I totally agree with that sentiment. There are many authors who are probably doing the rainforests a great injustice by having their words printed.

Anyway, I digress. This is a very compelling book - it comes across as honest without being moralistic. You come to feel for the characters and you get drawn into the plot. Even though the book portrays historical events in the US, themes of discrimination cut across geographical and cultural boundaries, and force us to re-examine the complexity and often, hypocrisy of human relations.

So if you're looking for something new to read, do give this book a try.


Zelda said...

Hi Monica...

I simply love this book! was my lit text back in my sec sch days. However, I remember rereading it many times even when I was in my late twenties. Very engaging book indeed! Totally agree with you, it's very difficult to find books as good as this nowadays!

Will try The Help...!


monlim said...

Zelda: Nice to hear from you! I love it when a book engages me, unfortunately they're few and far in between. I'm currently reading Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls, it's pretty good too.

Anonymous said...

My fave literature book....the story never left my mind till today...I believe it will be the literature book of my child in future too.

Prejudice is everywhere...not just in racial long as one is just constantly reminds me of the dark side of the human nature....


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