Thursday, August 27, 2015

Harper Lee and Scout Finch Return to the Public Eye

by Reena Karasin
Summer 2015 Intern
Since its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has had a profound impact on children and adults worldwide. Harper Lee’s first printed novel has been published in over forty different languages and still sells a million copies annually—a testament to its accessibility and power. Just as young Scout Finch had to grapple with the grim realities surrounding her, for many of us, To Kill a Mockingbird was our first striking venture into the matters of adulthood. The book has also received significant critical acclaim, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. After her first roaring success, Lee never published any other writing—until now, over fifty years later.

Go Set a Watchman, released on July 14, was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s editor was enamored with the snippets of Scout’s past throughout the manuscript, and suggested that Lee go in that direction with a separate novel, which later became To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s newly published novel takes place during the 1950s, and features an adult Scout, who resides in New York but visits her hometown and her aging father—the famous Atticus Finch—in Maycomb, Alabama. After temporal and geographical distance, Scout is faced with sorting out her feelings toward Maycomb and the slew of racial issues it contains.

Go Set a Watchman, whose first print run of two million copies was increased to 3.3 million after selling over a million copies in the week following its release, has broken HarperCollins’s record for most pre-ordered book and fastest selling book. It is classified as adult fiction, and rests at a comfortable length of about 300 pages. The manuscript was published in essentially the same state in which it was found.

It’s too soon to tell whether Go Set a Watchman will become a classic like its predecessor, but regardless of its lasting impact and whether it makes us view To Kill a Mockingbird in a different light, it is a pleasure to return to characters we know and love and to see them developed further. The novel, which is interwoven with familiar flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, draws us once again into the world of Jem and Dill, of Atticus and Aunt Alexandra, and—perhaps most importantly—of Maycomb, Alabama, the fictional but terrifyingly realistic place that many of us first visited during our own childhoods.
Did You Know?
The setting of Maycomb in both of Harper Lee’s novels is modeled after the author’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, but the similarities don’t stop there. Finch was Lee’s mother’s maiden name, and Lee and Scout would have been the about same age in the early 1930s when To Kill a Mockingbird takes place.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Just Call Me Katniss, Coach: The New PE

by Eileen Neary
Asst. Project Manager

Gym class: the often dreaded period of the day. In elementary school, we had these gym class scooters you would propel yourself on by shuffling your feet. There was nothing quite like having your fingers run over by the swivel wheels. And high school? Dodgeball just wasn’t my thing.

My gym class experiences were completely at odds with my after-school participation in recreational, travel and school soccer teams—sometimes all three teams at once, with a different practice each night. My apathy toward gym class had nothing to do with athleticism, and everything to do with, “I don’t feel like doing that.”

But in the last couple of years, more and more schools are allowing students to pick which activity they want to participate in during their gym classes.

At Patriot High School in Virginia, students can choose between football, tennis or jump-rope games. In Washington, DC, public schools, fly-fishing, yoga, archery and even rock climbing are on the roster. One high school offers a class called “Your Personal Fitness,” which allows students to create their own fitness plans. Another has distributed pedometers to all students. In West Virginia, Cameron High School has its own “exergaming room.” It features Xbox Kinect games that require full-body movement, table tennis and arcade-style games.

Gone are the days of forcing students to take the “mile run” or make the terrifying rope-climb in front of their peers. The new voice in physical education is about encouraging students to start at point A and track their personal improvement on the way to point B.

For students lucky enough to attend San Rafael High School near San Francisco, they might find themselves rock climbing, hiking or sailing. But me? I’ll take archery.

Archery is one of the fastest-growing gym class activities in recent years. From Minnesota to Alabama to Pennsylvania, students are enjoying the outdoors and shooting targets, instead of shooting each other looks of exasperation.

If you handed me a compound bow and quiver of arrows in gym class, I might not be Katniss Everdeen, but I might decide to stick around.

Did You Know?

It’s true that archery is flourishing in the United States, exploding in popularity due to the success of The Hunger Games trilogy Looking for an archery club? There are far more out there than you might think.