by Harper Lee
This book is recommended for Level 4 (8th grade) by Mater Amabilis, which would be First Son's level next year. There's a note encouraging parents to read the text first to determine if it is appropriate. It is, of course, the story of the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. As with far too many "classics," this is a book I never read but it has been on my list, so I requested it from the library.
Written from the point of view of young Scout, the book explores overt and subtle racism. I've decided First Son will read it, but I'm going to make a reading journal for him where I'll ask him to record his thoughts in response to questions I'll pose (probably not for every chapter). Set in the 1930s, many of the characters who are less racist are actually still quite racist by today's standards. Among other things I want to be able to tease this out a little with my son.
My reading of this book prompted a little discussion on the Mater Amabilis facebook page. Thinking about this book myself, I was concerned about the possibility of First Son (and later my girls) internalizing the idea of a woman who falsely accuses someone of rape. This topic is sensitive and there are certainly false accusations, but I'd like my children to give accusers the benefit of the doubt and let those in authority make determinations of fault. In addition, I wanted my girls to feel safe talking with me or someone else if they felt like someone was taking advantage of them. One of the very wise moms in the group pointed out that Tom (the accused) is really the one who isn't believed despite the evidence. We can use this part of the novel to talk about how those who are generally powerless slash out at others and how whether we believe someone can initially depend more on context and prejudices than facts and truth.
This is yet another book I look forward to sharing with First Son next year.