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This Coming of Age Imparted Onto Us

No matter how we read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird the story always at its core is a coming of age story for Scout and Jem. This trial was a grueling development in the children’s life and as such has shaped them by the end. Scout’s development is what interests me most as it revolves around her self discovery in a sense. She discovers who she is in the scale of race, class, and even as a woman. This trial has taught Scout of the distinctions and separations in all of these areas. She finally can see she is not only a white person, but a comparatively wealthy, white, female. This comes as a fulfilling ending to the novel as we have seen it grow through her actions with Boo and the gifts he brings, the contrast she finds between herself and Mayella, and the distinction between her family and that of the Ewells. All of these are major points that guide Scout into realizing who she is in this world.

I find it to be no coincidence that this novel has become a common middle and high school required reading. I can remember vividly reading this in my 7th grade ENGL classes! What this books does well is impart this coming of age onto us the reader. Reading this novel was a defining event for me and many others as we grew up. The awkward silences when vulgarities were used, the sideways glances between students when hearing of Dill’s tragic family life, or the shadow that engulfs a middle school classroom hearing that Tom Robinson was shot 17 times in his back…

These are emotional events that Scout had to face and we, the reader, must face with her. This novel forces young readers to grow with it as they read it. It allows readers to follow Scout’s path and come to the conclusion of who they are. It can highlight the class, race, and gender privilege at an early age and allow us to begin understanding these concepts so that we can know ourselves. Once we know ourselves we can begin growing and fixing our prejudices, using our privilege for fairness and equality, and reconciling our innocent past with the gritty future after what we learn from reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

Zong! & Apathy in History Classrooms

When I initially began reading Zong!, I was faced with the typical confusion that always seems to accompany this kind of poetry for me; the sparse wording and odd formatting were nothing short of disorienting, especially when combined with the complete lack of context I had with these poems. However, as I continued to read, these initial confusions only better lent themselves to the point the poetry was making. 

In classrooms in the United States, the profound tragedies experienced by the Africans as they made their way to the new world are largely left glossed over and unexplored. Apathy regarding history is something that I find to be quite prevalent due to the way history is often taught, but Zong! does a wonderful job of filling these gaps. The feelings of disorientation, confusion, and altogether frustration I felt as I was trying to decipher these poems is a direct reflection of the confusions felt by the Africans that were transported to the “New World.” I have memories of learning about this in elementary school and how inhumanely these people were treated, but these realities failed to sink in whenI was just learning them from one angle. In Zong!, I felt as though I was transported into the mind of one of these individuals. 

The elements of formatting utilized in these pieces mimic the unstructured form of natural thoughts; the confusion, frustration, and utter disorientation faced by these individuals are better felt in these poems. When reading this, it made me wonder about how history is taught in classrooms and its validity. I know that many history classes read novels to enrich their learning, but reading Zong! made me realize just how much of an asset this can be to students. Novels, poetry, and other creative works assist in the development of empathy as well as a deeper understanding of the events that occurred. In the current day, I can only see this as an enrichment to students’ learning in the United States.