The other Emory historian on our list, Crespino turns literary critic in this book by mining the source material for Harper Lee’s fictional hero Atticus Finch. He analyzes the writings and evolving philosophy of Lee’s father, A.C. Lee, and his relationship with his precocious daughter as she left her native Alabama to write one of the most beloved novels of all time. Contrasting Atticus Finch as he appeared in “To Kill a Mockingbird” with the one depicted in “Go Set a Watchman,” Crespino leads the reader to a complex understanding of what Atticus represented: a white moderate, the kind of man Martin Luther King, Jr. viewed as in some ways a more significant stumbling block to Civil Rights progress than overt racists like the KKK. Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels were among the readers moved by Crespino’s insights, as they reimagined Atticus for their heralded new stage production of “Mockingbird.” Despite experiencing the bright lights of Broadway, Crespino remains a regular at many of our humble A Cappella happenings, not only waxing eloquent about his own work but presenting and interviewing other authors, and, of course, feeding his own voracious reading habits.
Basic Books, May 2018. Hardcover. New. Item #200597
Who was the real Atticus Finch? A prize-winning historian reveals the man behind the legend The publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 forever changed how we think about Atticus Finch. Once seen as a paragon of decency, he was reduced to a small-town racist. How are we to understand this transformation?
In Atticus Finch, historian Joseph Crespino draws on exclusive sources to reveal how Harper Lee's father provided the central inspiration for each of her books. A lawyer and newspaperman, A. C. Lee was a principled opponent of mob rule, yet he was also a racial paternalist. Harper Lee created the Atticus of Watchman out of the ambivalence she felt toward white southerners like him. But when a militant segregationist movement arose that mocked his values, she revised the character in To Kill a Mockingbird to defend her father and to remind the South of its best traditions. A story of family and literature amid the upheavals of the twentieth century, Atticus Finch is essential to understanding Harper Lee, her novels, and her times.