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EXPERT ADVISORY: 'Go Set a Watchman:' Readers’ Reactions & How Will Teaching of 'Mockingbird' Change?

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) July 16, 2015 –How will the conversation around "To Kill a Mockingbird" change? How must a professor alter his or her course discussion? What questions does it bring up for students? What is behind readers' strong reactions? American University professors are available to talk via Skype, email, phone or in-studio.

WHO: Melissa Scholes Young teaches college writing and creative writing at American University. Her work has appeared in Narrative, Ploughshares, Huffington Post, Poets &Writers, Poet Lore, and other literary journals. She's a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and is a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Her novel, Flood, is currently a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Prof. Scholes Young says: "This is a different Atticus, a different character entirely. We should be disturbed by Atticus' racism. We should be more bothered by the racism still happening in our country. Fiction tells truths that are hard to tell otherwise."

Michael Manson teaches in the Literature Department and the American Studies program at American University. Prof. Manson can discuss how the new novel changes readers' relationships with Scout and Atticus, how it changes the historical significance of To Kill a Mockingbird, and what it reveals about the artistic process, demonstrating the crucial role editors can have in writing as well as the role of timing in making "To Kill a Mockingbird" the right novel at the right time. Prof. Manson said: "Go Set a Watchman reveals what has always been present in To Kill a Mockingbird and what the success of the film obscured—the struggle of white Southerners to love their home and fight the racism bred there. The new novel makes plain what so many readers have always suspected—that Atticus's heroism tells only part of his story. What will be harder to see is that Atticus is not merely a racist. The values he represents remain consistent over the two novels, but the adult Jean Louise can see the limitations that the young Scout cannot. The virtues and limitations of To Kill a Mockingbird have always echoed those of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and now Go Set a Watchman completes the parallel, educating readers about the limitations of Scout's perspective and thus of Atticus's."