My Father and Atticus Finch: A Lawyer’s Fight for Justice in 1930s Alabama

Joseph Madison Beck. Norton, $25.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-393-28582-6
With the recent publication of Go Set a Watchman and subsequent death of Harper Lee, Beck’s memoir about his father, Foster, an Alabama lawyer who he speculates helped inspire To Kill a Mockingbird, is especially timely. Foster was still at the start of his career when, in 1938, a judge picked him to defend Charles White, an African-American man accused of rape. Many were not happy to have a white lawyer represent a black defendant quite so vigorously. Beck’s suspenseful recreation of the trial is gripping, far more so than his well-intentioned but sometimes clumsy examination of race in the Depression-era South. Beck also provides a fond record of his parents’ memories of their courtship, which coincided with this tumultuous time in Foster’s career. But the book never quite knows what it wants to be; it is a blurry, somewhat disconcerting mix of fact and fiction (in the form of recreated dialogue). Beck, a lawyer himself, feels great pride in his father’s bravery, and declares Atticus Finch and Foster “birds of a feather” even though Lee denied any recollection of the case. It is certainly an interesting story, but his telling of it lacks the distance that might have made this book more cohesive. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Library Binding - 500 pages - 978-1-68324-062-4
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-393-28581-9
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