Recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday – A Day for Reflection or a Long Weekend?

As I announced in yesterday’s blog, I’m going to be giving away copies of my book of short stories, Random Tales, from January 22nd through the 24th. This week, I’ll be telling you a bit about the inspiration for each story. I chose one of the stories, August 1963, to talk about today since it deals with the early civil rights struggle in the south.

This story was written to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. There are a few things to note about this story. First, the main character tells the story in first person, which was something I wanted to try. Second, the character is a transplanted northerner moving to the south at a time when the Civil Rights movement in the US was at a fevered pitch. Although I was less than a year old when this story takes place, I experienced some of the same issues that the main character faced during my own move to the south over 30 years later. Finally, if you’ve read “Frankly Speaking” or “Let Me Be Frank”, you might notice some familiar names and references. This is something that I’ve started to do in my work. I want to have a common underlying thread or universe of characters throughout my work.

This story very much echoes my own feelings on prejudice and racial inequality. One theme that rings through is, no matter how enlightened we think we might be on either side of the race issue, we don’t truly understand what is going on in the hearts and minds of others involved in the struggle. I was able to weave in music as a common thread that binds the characters together. You will see the use of music in many of my stories. Besides writing, it is another passion in my life.

One change that I made in this version of the story from the original that was published as a single, is using the actual n-word instead of masking it. I received some reviews and messages saying that this would make the piece more authentic. I struggled with this as the word has become so controversial and I have always viewed it as offensive. I was convinced when I recently re-read my favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. When Scout uses the word in the book as a young child, her father tells her not to use the word because it is “common” meaning “low class” in the context of the time and place. I am using it in my story even though, like Atticus Finch, I consider it “common”.

I hope you enjoy this story and I hope that it makes you think a bit.

My short story collection, Random Tales, will be available for free download from Amazon from January 22nd – 24th.

As always, your comments, questions, and feedback are welcome.

About Don Massenzio:

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian-American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series was released on April 24th, 2015 and is available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback formats.

 

A Review of To Kill a Mockingbird in Anticipation of Go Set a Watchman (To Kill a Mockingbird #2)

I don’t normally use this form for book reviews, but, upon reading my favorite book of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, for the third time in my life, I felt that it deserved a heartfelt review in anticipation of Harper Lee’s improbable and highly-anticipated sequel, Go Set a Watchman, due out in July.

I’ve now read this book three times, once in my teens, again in my twenties, and now at 52. Like all great books, I have taken something new from it each time I’ve read it. There is so much to be learned from this book. It’s told from the perspective of Scout Finch, a young girl who is somewhere between 7-9 years old.

When Harper Lee wrote this semi-autobiographical book, I’m not sure that she set out to make it part court room drama, part young adult fiction, and part lesson in humanity. When I read TKAM as a teenager when it was a school assignment, I begrudgingly started it and quickly became lost in the story. It was Young Adult fiction before that type of literature had a label. The story was compelling and the perspective of young scout was a blend of childish thoughts and dialog mixed with mature and “wise beyond her years” insight.

When I read the book in my twenties, I was able to relate to the social issues touched upon in the book. I was outraged along with Scout and Jem as Tom Robinson was discriminated against in a court of law simply because of his skin color. I could see the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement through the eyes of the Finch’s even at this pre-World War II time period.

No, in my early 50’s, I realized that I am Atticus Finch. I have a daughter who is slightly younger than Scout as she appears in the book. Scout views her 50 year old father as old and not able to participate in activities with her and her brother. This made me wonder if my six year old views me the way that Scout viewed Atticus. It really made me think and it made my relationship with the book change completely. I went from the headstrong Jem/Scout type mindset in my teens and twenties to a more sedate mindset in the personage of Atticus. I could see myself advising my children to be patient and wait for issues to resolve themselves instead of charging ahead blindly. What a revelation. It made me fall in love with the book all over again.

Now, as Harper Lee prepares to release her 2nd book in July, I am both excited and nervous. I want it to be as good as TKAM, but I question how it could ever be. I will be reading it the day that it comes out and I recommend that you re-read this classic first and then read the new book.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.

Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com