To Kill a Mockingbird [Paperback] by Harper Lee - Harper Lee Lee

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” 
― John F. Kennedy

I met someone in the late '80s who went to a very fine southern law school and before that a very fine southern college. In a group the subject of race relations came up. We were all a little curious at how she would respond. She didn't miss a beat, saying "We have a lot of "tradition" in the Delta." And then she smiled. That was her response. One word. Tradition.

This book is about tradition. And it still makes your stomach churn and your fists clench in futile rage against polite blindness and courteous savagery. 

I thought of The Help a bit when I read this, but then realized that this was closer to Souls of Black Folk in it's unflinching exploration of the terrible consequences of racism. Lee's gentle story-teller style and beautiful prose made it all the more devastating. We expected the violence bred of ignorance. But the harshest and most indefensible lines in the book were delivered by smiling southern belles--representing so called educated polite society.

I think the world has changed quite a bit since then, obviously, but the importance of this book has not diminished.