Who was the real Atticus Finch? The publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 forever changed how we think about him. Once seen as a paragon of decency, he was reduced to a small-town racist. How are we to understand this transformation? Historian Joseph Crespino draws on exclusive sources to reveal how Harper Lee's father provided the central inspiration for each of her books.
Emory University history professor Joseph Crespino concludes that Lee’s approach to her famous character was an evolving idea—one driven by her relationship with her father, Amasa Coleman Lee ... Mr. Crespino shows a gift for copious research and nuanced interpretation. He deftly parses the region’s racial attitudes into a spectrum of views that reflected varying degrees of tolerance.
Although dismaying to some Lee fans, the belated publication of Watchman ... opened the door to serious scholarship like Atticus Finch: The Biography, Joseph Crespino’s crisp, illuminating examination of Harper Lee’s dueling doppelgängers and their real-life model, Lee’s politician father, A. C. Lee. Crespino ... A. C. Lee, who once chased an integrationist preacher out of the Monroeville Methodist Church, and his devoted albeit sporadically rebellious daughter, Nelle Harper Lee, both wanted the world to have a better opinion of upper-class Southern WASPs than they deserve ... Crespino demonstrates that To Kill a Mockingbird, while it is the superior storytelling book, wobbles morally in comparison to Watchman.