Daily Archives: March 4, 2016

It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird: Harper Lee 1926-2016

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

harper-lee_0Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89 last month. She was a literary giant and wrote one of the most famous and beloved novels of the twentieth century: To Kill a Mockingbird. It was only last year that her second book, a predecessor of To Kill a Mockingbird, was published. This book, Go Set a Watchman, was as divisive as her first book was beloved. Many thought that Go Set a Watchman was published without her say-so, and that Ms. Lee was taken advantage of. And the views on race relations and the language used shocked many readers.

The book is so beloved that, according to Variety, Aaron Sorkin will be writing the script for a new Broadway play, adapting To Kill a Mockingbird for the 2017-2018 season. There is precedent: In 1990, a stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel debuted in Monroeville, where it’s performed each May by local actors. The performances take an almost reverential approach, with audiences taking part in order to ritually enact scenes of segregation and justice denied.

Truman Capote

Truman Capote

So why do we love To Kill A Mockingbird so much? Firstly, it’s one of the few books that kids in high school actually like to read. Consider the reading lists, it is a relatively shorter and easier to read book. And even though it’s themes are overt and plentiful, it doesn’t feel like Harper Lee was beating you over the head with themes (I’m looking at you Mr Dickens and your paid by the word description of how the wine and the street represented the Revolution).  Also, it is one of the few books that made the transition to film well. We all picture Gregory Peck when we think of Atticus Finch, and he was the epitome of the thoughtful, kind father we all wished we had. And we all related to Scout, who was an adventuresome tomboy learning about the world at his knee. And finally, as we all now know, the neighbor Dill was based off of a young Truman Capote.

During the years immediately following the novel’s publication, Harper Lee enjoyed the attention its popularity garnered her, granting interviews, visiting schools, and attending events honoring the book. In 1961, her book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.   The popularity snowballed and she began to turn down interviews sometime in 1964; she said the questions were monotonous. She also thought the attention was bordering on invasive and would take away the impact of the book. She was also quite shy all her life. Several times Lee said, once in a phone interview with Oprah, that the character in the book she most identified with is Boo Radley.

Only one year after its publication To Kill a Mockingbird had been translated into ten languages. Through the years, it has been translated into more than 40 languages. The novel has never been out of print in hardcover or paperback. A 1991 survey by the Book of the Month Club and the Library of Congress Center for the Book found that To Kill a Mockingbird was rated behind only the Bible in books that are “most often cited as making a difference”. It is considered by some to be the Great American Novel.48bbe6e4f83767fb9933a723e8f1196d

People celebrated across the United States in 2010 when To Kill a Mockingbird turned 50. A book was even published in honor of the 50th anniversary–Scout, Atticus, & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was full of famous readers writing to Harper Lee telling her how much they loved her book. The 2010 documentary film in the PBS American Masters series Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the background of the book and the film as well as their impact on readers and viewers.

And to have the second book Go Set a Watchman published in 2015 was a final gift to all of her fans. It was also a surprise, since so many readers had idolized Atticus, to see racist words pop up and find out that Calpurnia had retired. Many book groups are still discussing Lee’s new book. It is a nice legacy for her to leave us. Thank you Harper Lee for your magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird and your surprising postscript novel Go Set a Watchman. The world was better for your presence and your writing gifts.

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The Situation with the Flint River

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

As most people are aware, the City of Flint, Michigan, is in the middle of an environmental and health crisis. The origins of this crisis come from what was once a cost cutting move that moved Flint from the Detroit water supply to pulling their water from the Flint River. After seeing a rise in cases of lead poisoning in the people of the city, especially the children, it was determined that the water they were getting from the river was corroding the lead pipes and releasing the lead from the pipes into the water supply.maxresdefault

Much of Michigan is in financial trouble and many of the state’s local governments are doing everything in their power to remain solvent. In 1962 Flint had attempted to build a pipeline for water to come from Lake Huron. This was ended due to a real estate profiteering scam and Flint began buying their water from the City of Detroit, culminating in the cessation of Flint’s own water treatment. A 2011 study by a local firm concluded that using the Flint River water would mean for expensive treatment, but that it could be done if improvements to the city’s water treatment plant were made. Water from Lake Huron was a more cost effective solution and Flint decided to move to a different water cooperative, to the dismay of Detroit who deemed the water agreement they had with Flint to be terminated in April of 2014. Unfortunately, the connection to the other water cooperative was not to be completed until 2016. This meant that Flint had to use a backup water source, the Flint River. While the water source had been the backup water supply for 50 years it had not been a major contributor in all that time. The Flint water treatment authority had been forced to issue boil advisories in August and September of 2014 due to coli-form bacteria and there were spikes in a chlorine related carcinogen, most likely caused by over chlorination to combat the bacteria. There is also a suspected link to a legionnaire’s disease outbreak. The major problem came from the low ph and higher salinity of the Flint River water corroding the protective layer of the lead pipes and leaching lead into the water.

Flint is now returning to the Detroit water supply and Flint will be adding orthophosphate to the Detroit water to help build up the protective scale in the lead pipes. How long this will take is unknown.

 

The Situation in Our Area

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Harpeth River

The Harpeth River, where our water comes from in most of Williamson County, has had its own share of contamination issues. The Harpeth Valley Utility District (HVUD), where most of the county gets their water shows lead at 1.3 parts per billion (ppb). HVUD Uses copper pipes for tap water delivery so the possibility of a situation like that in Flint is impossible. The Hillsboro, Burwood & Thompson’s Station Utility district shows1.5 ppb of lead in their water quality tests and they use PVC and Ductile Iron pipes for their water delivery. Franklin Water Management shows 1.4 ppb. The Mallory Valley Utility District has the lowest lead locally, with .6 ppb. When you compare these to the EPA regulatory standard of 15 ppb, or even the 5 ppb level the researchers from Virginia Tech call a cause for concern, you can see that our water here is relatively safe. Flint averages 27 ppb with the highest found spiking at 13,000. Two communities get their water from outside the county. Fairview buys their water from Dickson County (2.2 ppb) and Brentwood water comes from metro Nashville water (1.5 ppb).

Two contributors to water quality problems in our area were ELMCO and Metalico. The Egyptian Lacquer Manufacturing Company was the source of a leak into Liberty Creek. An underground line leaked into the soil, washed into Liberty Creek and flowed into Harpeth. Acetone and Toluene were the main components of that leak and it was down river from the Franklin water intake. Since the pipes have been disconnected and the chemical tanks removed before the fall of 2008, no free product has been observed in Liberty Creek or the Harpeth. What lead we do see in the Harpeth and surrounding watersheds comes from natural sources but may be contributed to by lead smelting and battery reclamation. From the 1950s to the 1990s in College Grove, General Smelting and Refining Inc. (owned by Metalico) operated a plant that did just that on a site adjacent to the river near its head waters. While there is no current concern for lead contamination, continued monitoring for lead and antimony from the plant still goes on.

While there are concerns over the treatment of sewage and the amount of water used by some entities, the water in this area has received a clean bill of health by the last set of standards and test and new, stricter standards are coming before the next time the state renews local water certificates. For information on some of the challenges facing the Harpeth River and water quality reports look at the web sites for the utility districts discussed above and also take a look at the web page for the Harpeth River Watershed Association.

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