Films en boeken hebben altijd een rol gespeeld in het vormen, motiveren, en inspireren van opeenvolgende generaties van strijders voor gelijke rechten. In het kader van de Maart van de Vrouw schreef Shakirah Bourne voor PROJEKTA over het boek dat haar inspireerde: To kill a Mockingbird, geschreven door Harper Lee.
I love using child narrators in my short stories because children see truth and honesty in every situation. Children are unintentionally blunt, and have yet to conform to social norms. In times where unethical and immoral behaviour is ignored or swept under the rug, who best to expose them than an innocent child? Their frank observations often bring humour to what are very serious themes.
One of the masters of this technique is Harper Lee, author of the renowned To Kill A Mockingbird. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but whilst at school I detested the fact that not only did we not have a choice in books, but that we were forced to read them aloud and analyse passages instead of enjoying them. Indeed, the blurb at the back of the book; “Scout and her brother Jem can understand that idea of sin, but in the small American town where they live, evil comes in many shapes and they have to learn to recognize it, and understand how people behave”, only caused my thirteen-year old self to yawn and slump in my chair.
Little did I know that I was going to be so engaged by Scout, a stubborn and feisty six-year old tomboy, who many times reminded me of myself with her inappropriate outbursts, thirst for adventures, and curiosity about forbidden places. That I was going to be traumatised by the world of Alabama in the 1930s, where racism was rampant, and a white lawyer defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman would be my introduction to the hatred and injustice faced by African Americans on a daily basis.
Yet, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is renowned for its warmth and humor – thanks to the voice of Scout.
“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.
“Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”
“’s what everybody at school says.”
“From now on it’ll be everybody less one-”
“Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin’ that way, why do you send me to school?”
The novel is described as a coming-of-age story, and since it took an entire school term of thirty teenagers reading it aloud, I felt as if I too had come to age by the time we finished the book. I thought about Scout, lawyer Atticus Finch, the disabled Tom Robinson, and the mysterious Boo Radley for a long time after we had completed our end of term English exam. I think that To Kill A Mockingbird ignited a desire to read books that made me angry, uncomfortable and created a thirst to know more about the trials and history of African people – something that my Mills & Boon historical romances and Are You Afraid of the Dark books failed to do.
Shakirah Bourne is the author of In Time of Need. In Time of Need is a collection of stories that showcase the controversial and often hidden aspects of Barbados. The themes of love and relationships, domestic and emotional abuse, politics in the rum shop, sex tourism and human trafficking and more, are narrated in a satirical and humorous style, often through the voices of innocent and naïve characters.