I freely admit I am a news junkie. The very first things I read as a little kid were newspapers my parents had finished reading and cast aside. I did not fully understand the stories, and what they meant; but I did know what I was reading was important to someone, somewhere, or it would not be reported and printed. Following current events is a lifelong passion, given to a desire for awareness and understanding of who we are as a society, and how we are doing on this struggling planet.
Some stories are much the same as they have been for years. Different names, different places, but all in all, the same old behaviors masquerading as something newer and more important than yesterday’s story. Not that they lack importance, they just do not reflect much originality in the scope of humanity’s headlong rush to break each other, or the planet on which we all dwell.
Then, one day words fairly jump off a page, and the news is so shocking, so unsettling it will not go away. This is precisely what happened on January 3, 2015. I have told myself to let it go, and used my daughter’s favorite quote, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”; but I cannot shake off how disturbed and concerned I am over the latest, and what will probably be the biggest literary news of this decade, and many to come.
The Associated Press broke the story, releasing an announcement by Harper Lee’s publisher that on July 14, 2015, they are going to publish a book she wrote in the 1950s titled, Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to her bestseller, Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The manuscript for this book was “stumbled upon last fall” by Ms Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, who just happened to be pawing through items hidden away in the attic of the house Ms Lee shared with her sister, Alice Lee, who was the attorney, protector, and lifelong confidante of her sister until, at the age of 103, she died in November.
The publisher included a dandy little quote to go along with the announcement, in which Ms Lee supposedly stated, “After much thought and hesitation, I shared the manuscript with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this now will be published after all these years”.
There are some critically significant things to consider in this story. Harper Lee has stated over the years she never published, nor would she publish another book, because she had one story to tell, and she did not wish to tell it again. In 2007, she had a stroke that left her confined to a wheelchair, almost completely deaf, forgetful, and added to macular degeneration, practically blind. She resides in an assisted living facility, and at 88 years old, is very frail, and showing signs of advanced age. It was reported at her sister’s funeral this last fall that she talked loudly to herself, and mumbled throughout the service, shocking those in attendance. It also has been reported, because of the above conditions, she will sign anything put in front of her by someone she trusts, without knowing or understanding what it is she is signing.
With all these things taken together, especially the loss of her protector, guardian, gatekeeper sister, and the fragile state of her health, both physical and mental; the timing of this announcement, and actual publishing of the book seem to cloak whatever intentions there might have been in a fog, an appearance of wrongdoing, and possible abuse of a helpless, elderly woman.
It is possible I am incorrect. However, having worked for years with the elderly, and having been a mandated reporter, I believe that a referral to Ms Lee’s local or state Adult Protective Services needs to be made before any further action is taken regarding the publishing of her book. She can be evaluated, and if she is capable of making competent decisions, and can communicate her will to an objective outsider, more power to her, and a grand culmination of her life’s work at this end stage. But, if she is being taken advantage of, may the forces of all that is right and proper in the law of this land come down on the heads of those who would do harm, and use her for their own greedy avarice and profit.
Harper Lee is the woman who wrote my favorite book, and I have held her in the highest esteem since 1960. I have admired her from afar these many years, and respected her individuality with regards to choices she made, literary and personal. Now that she has come this far, and her book has given so much to all of us, I say without equivocation, this woman deserves peace, honor, and serenity for all her enduring days, because it still is a sin to kill a mockingbird.