On May 1, 1961, Alabama author Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize. In Japan To Kill a Mockingbird is called アラバマ物語 (Arabama Monogatari, or “Alabama Story”). In 1999 Library Journal readers voted it the “Best Novel of the 20th century.”
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” — Attorney Atticus Finch (see Gregory Peck above, in the 1962 film) in To Kill a Mockingbird
I didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird until I was 21, when I happened to be an exchange student at Kansai Gaidai (university) in Japan.
I had found a copy at some campus used book sale for, I don’t know ¥500 or something (then, just a couple of dollars). Lying there late at night in my little room at the Nakae’s (my host family) home in Tsuda, Japan, reading about the fictitious Maycomb, Alabama (my Alabama home town is the very real Slocomb) and the quiet courage of attorney Atticus Finch (my father, was also a courageous attorney from South Alabama) was a strange, but wonderful thing. Reading about the cowardice of the racists, Atticus’ resolve and his instilling the sense of Justice over mob rule to Scout, it made me both alternately ashamed of how my adopted state could be, and so very proud of the kind of people is was capable of producing.