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Faculty, Student Co-author 'Atticus' Article

Colorado College Political Science Professor Thomas Cronin and William Kim '17 co-authored "Say it ain't so, Atticus," in the July 19 Perspective section of The Denver Post.

The article is more than a book review of Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman"; instead, it offers a decidedly political take on the newly published novel. Cronin, McHugh Professor of American Institutions and Leadership, and Kim, a political science major and opinion editor of The Catalyst, CC's student newspaper, write that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a xenophobic racist, "engaged in what we today might call Donald Trumpism."

The Perspective piece came about in typical Block Plan fashion. Cronin and Kim got a copy of the book on a Tuesday, and spent the entire day reading it. They then hunkered down in the library that evening, drafting, writing, revising, and proofing the 1,015-word Perspective piece, sending it off the next morning in order to meet newspaper deadlines and the Sunday section production schedule.

"Go Set a Watchman" is not as "endearing, charming, or redemptive as the earlier novel," write Cronin and Kim; instead, it probes the political values of the white community and puts the "pay-to-play" politics of the courthouse political cabal under a microscope. The novel may be about Lee's small town in southern Alabama, "but it is also instructive political anthropology. She helps explain political realities of our darker past and the reasons local political elites often act the way they do," write Cronin and Kim.

"Public policy initiatives that alter the status quo, regardless of which branch of government is acting, invariably meet resistance. Backlash to affirmative action, busing, and empowering minorities to vote is still apparent."

Cronin and Kim also note that "Lee conveys little or no understanding in either book of the leadership and politics in the African-American community. The novel's fictional town (and Lee's real hometown) were at least 50 percent African-American."

"Mockingbird" was a consciousness-raising inspiration about how we can overcome intolerance; "Watchman" is a frank examination and analysis of the realities of the time, they write. "Court decisions and the evolving civil rights movement unsettled Harper Lee's hometown and triggered a transformational political realignment in American politics. These effects are still being felt today."

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