Sunday, May 2, 2010

Welcome to Sultry Sunday!

I’m sure you all know that sultry means to be hot with passion or to be capable of exciting strong sexual desire. But sultry can also mean sweltering or torrid.

Have you ever heard a word that reminds you of a certain time and place, almost like a Déjà vu? Whenever I hear the word sultry it reminds of only one thing – the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know that sounds odd because most of the time sultry would remind one of hot passion or conjure an image of Marilyn Monroe standing over an air vent on the sidewalk with her short skirt billowing about her.

Not me. When I hear the word “sultry” I’m taken on a journey back to my childhood, seventh grade to be exact. That year, my teacher placed a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird on my desk with a simple note, “Keta, read this. I hope it opens many doors for you.”

At the time, I thought it a strange note, but then Miss Holmquist was rather strange. (Picture a short, stout woman whose flabby upper arms sagged when she worked the chalkboard). Still, the woman piqued my interest with her odd message. How could books open doors? Why did I want to read about an old lawyer in a southern state I knew nothing about? And, what’s more what kind of a man would name his children Jem and Scout?

I took the book home and several days passed before I opened it and read the first line, "When he was thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." Hmm, this Ms. Harper Lee, whoever she is, has my attention now,” I thought. Who is Jem and how did he break his arm?

From that moment on I was hooked – mesmerized over the story, in awe over the character names, Boo Radley, Aunt Avery, Dill, Atticus, Calpurnia, and even the white girl who was supposedly raped, Mayella. And I’m still in awe of the plot, the personalities, and the vivid neighborhood descriptions.

So why does the word “sultry” remind me of To Kill A Mockingbird? Because for the first time in my life I realized that by simply turning the pages, I could feel the sultry heat, taste the prejudice and agonize over the hatred between black and white.

“So what did you discover in this book?” Miss Holmquist asked me two weeks later. I didn’t know where to begin. Should I tell her about the rollercoaster of emotions I went through reading it? Do I dare ask her why the jury convicted Tom even though I prayed they wouldn’t? Or maybe I should tell her how brave Scout was when she diffused an explosive situation between Atticus and the old-timers of the town with a simple, “Hey there, Mr. Ewell, how’s your boy, Henry doing?”

I didn’t ask her any of those things, but I did tell her about every sentiment I felt. Mostly I told her about the bitter taste in my mouth over a word called prejudice, and I told her I felt the hot, sultry sun of Maycomb County.

Some days, I wish I could go back to 7th grade and ask Miss Holmquist if she knew that one day To Kill A Mockingbird would be one of the best-loved stories of all time, that it would earn many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. I’d ask her if she thought it would win the Pulitzer Prize one day and be translated into more than forty languages. "And, Miss Holmquist, do you think it will sell more than thirty million copies worldwide, and will it be made into an enormously popular movie?"

You know, I think Miss Holmquist would have said, “Yes, Keta, I do think Miss Lee’s novel will achieve all those things and more, but the most important thing, To Kill A Mockingbird will transport you to the sultry heat of the deep South and will take you to places you never dreamed existed.”

And I would say, “Thank you, Miss Holmquist, thank you.”

* * *
Keta Diablo writes for Phaze Publishing, Ravenous Romance, Amber Quill Press and Noble Romance. You can find out more about Keta and her books by visiting KETA'S HAUNT


Christa Paige said...

The way you describe that book, I want to read it again. I rushed through it when they assigned it as reading. It never piqued my interest, but now I wonder if maybe I was just so eager to have it done with, that I didn't bother to actually immerse myself into that sultry setting. Honestly, I can hardly recall anything about the book now beyond how much I hated the injustice. My kids will be reading it soon and I think I will reread it with them, maybe with this post here in the back of my mind, I will have a better mindset going in.
However, I don't think I will ever change my knee-jerk reaction to the Lord of the Flies, hated that book and movie so much that I'm never forcing my kids to read it. (LOL Good thing I home school!)
Great post Keta.

Keta Diablo said...

Hi Christa, I haven't read Lord of the Flies. I know, isn't that awful, but one day I will. I don't deny that TKAM has been a controversial book for some of its content, but I read it every year and get caught up in the characters and their lives. One thing Harper Lee is very good at is her depth of character portrayal. For a short book, she nailed it, right down to the individual names of her characters.

Thanks for stopping by, Keta

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Keta, insightful fantastic post. I never did actually read the book. The movie impacted me deeply and that impact has never gone away.

I did read Lord of the Flies... yeah, gee, that was so fun. Certainly, the message, the outcome was valid... but then, again, I've questioned that as the inevitable outcome in every case.

Savanna Kougar said...

Christa, I'm so glad you home school. I think, overall, it's a much better educational opportunity. Personally, I would have preferred homeschooling myself. I would have naturally learned to much more.

Chloe Waits said...

Hi Keta
loved your post, I read that book too in school and it was great to revisit it.

I really enjoyed that novel too!