Literature opens our eyes to reality around us

Published 7:40 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

I am an avid reader and always have a book going.

Currently, I am reworking my way through the second 1,000-plus page monster in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives in preparation for the third book being released soon (if you are a fantasy fan, I highly recommend the series).

Despite my love of reading, when books were assigned in school I sometimes struggled to make it through them. The Scarlet Letter, Great Expectations and Tale of Two Cities were all started, but eventually I just switched to Spark Notes.

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There is one book I loved though, and the only required reading book I have ever willingly turned to and read a second time.

That book, “To Kill a Mockingbird” has recently been met with controversy in Mississippi following a decision by the Biloxi School Board to pull the book from the eighth grade curriculum.

According to the Sun Herald, the book was pulled “because parents complained that language in the book made them uncomfortable.”

During a discussion with the school board as reported by the Sun Herald, the parents in question specifically mentioned the repeated use of racial slurs in the book and students’ reactions to them as being offensive.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” deals with an incredibly difficult topic of an African-American man on trial for a crime he didn’t commit against a white woman. The man is defended by a white attorney and the story is told from the perspective of the children of the attorney, Atticus Finch.

The book is supposed to make you uncomfortable. The man character, Scout, is coming of age during the trial and learning about race and the relations between the races in the south during the time period.

One of the most “uncomfortable” scenes in the book occurs when the town drunk Mr. Raymond explains to the children that he only pretends to be drunk so people in town will have an explanation for why he, a white man, is married to an African-American woman.

The book is written to peel back the band-aid and lay bare the struggles of the south during that time. As our country remains divided in so many ways, we cannot only read books that make us comfortable or we will never learn from the past.

We must break free from our bubble. We have to expose ourselves to ideas that are different than ours, talk to people who have lived different lives than ours and understand the culture and struggles of people who have led different lives due to the color of their skin or the religion they practice.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is an incredibly powerful book that opens the eyes of the reader and lets him or her learn and grow along with Scout.

We must expose ourselves to literature that opens our eyes. That is why literature is important. Pulling the book from the curriculum because it is “uncomfortable” or “offensive” shows a lack of understanding about the purpose of the book and the value of its story.

I hope people throughout the country pickup a copy and read it once again. Let’s get uncomfortable and lets grow together.

Brandon O’Connor is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at