Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the book of my youth. I didn’t grow up poor in Depression-era Alabama, but I identified with Scout as I read it several times in my teens. My childhood was a middle-class family in the integrated Bronx, but Scout and I shared a house full of books and a lawyer-father blessed with a firm, centering integrity. Later, studying journalism at NYU in the 1980s, I heard that if you wanted to learn what good writing was, read Mockingbird every year.
About a dozen years ago, I was back home visiting from my young-adult life in the city, sitting around drinking coffee with my mom and my sisters, when I suddenly heard my much-younger brother crying out in pain. I jumped up. “Where are you, buddy?” I called out.