Go Set a Watchman Editor Speaks Candidly About New Book

Go Set A Watchman cover (1)Mackin and edWeb.net team up to bring this exclusive webinar discussing the long-awaited novel.

edWeb.net in partnership with Mackin Educational Resources and Harper Books presented an exclusive webinar on the publication of Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman, with Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and Publisher of the Harper Division at HarperCollins.

In this behind-the-scenes conversation, Jonathan Burnham answered questions that were raised by educators about the publication and content of the new novel including:

  • How was the manuscript discovered?
  • What were the challenges involved in the editorial process?
  • Can you talk about the timing of the publication during a summer with so much race-based violence?
  • Was Harper Lee criticized for having such a strong female character?
  • How should a teacher handle the disparate views Atticus Finch reveals about race in each of Lee’s novels?
  • What level of editorial change did the novel receive?

Jonathan Burnham affirmed that Go Set a Watchman is a very separate book, and not a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

The character of Atticus Finch is at the heart of the storm around the publication of the book. In Go Set a Watchman, Atticus Finch is seen through the eyes of a grown woman who is now living in New York. In To Kill a Mockingbird, he is seen through the eyes of a child. The character of Atticus Finch has often been influenced by his portrayal in the movie by Gregory Peck. Jonathan Burnham suggested that if you go back to To Kill a Mockingbird, you find a more complicated character. Atticus Finch is a lawyer who believes in justice and fairness, but he is also a southern gentleman of his time who does not want to change the status quo.

Go Set a Watchman provides a contrast between the racist views of a father and the views of a very intelligent and questioning daughter. Harper Lee thought the book was lost, so she is very happy about the publication. It was put aside, not by her, but by an editor.

Jonathan Burnham quoted the Chicago Tribune review, “Go Set a Watchman comes to us at exactly the right moment. All important works of art do.”

In speaking of the overall reaction to the publication, Jonathan Burnham commented, “The volume and intensity has been astonishing. There has been a huge range of opinions from disappointing to those who see it as an important addition to the Harper Lee canon.”

You can listen to the complete recording of the interview here.

Lisa Schmucki, the founder and CEO of edWeb.net, commented, “This was a very special opportunity for educators to ask questions about some of the most controversial issues surrounding the publication of Harper Lee’s new book. It was fascinating to hear Jonathan Burnham answer these questions personally without it being filtered through the media.”

edWeb.net and Mackin provide educators with professional learning programs that are relevant and informative, and a source for continuing education credit. Educators are invited to join Mackin’s community on edWeb.net, Exploring eBooks for K-12, at www.edweb.net/ebooks.

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