Parents Change 14-Month-Old Son Atticus’ Name After Go Set a Watchman Controversy

Tierney McAfee, People, July 24, 2015

What’s in a name? If you ask David and Christen Epstein, the answer is: a whole lot.

The Colorado parents chose to name their 14-month-old son Atticus after the long-revered literary hero of To Kill a Mockingbird because “we wanted to see the ideals of Atticus Finch instilled in our son,” Christen tells PEOPLE.

But after reading Harper Lee’s newly published novel, Go Set a Watchman, in which the beloved character is exposed as a racist who once attended a Klan meeting, they had a change of heart–and a change of name.

“When the new book came out, we just felt like, this does not at all encompass the values that we want for our son to have and know,” Christen explains. “And we felt like our son was young enough that we could change his name.”

After much deliberating, the parents decided last weekend on the name Lucas, or Luke for short. {snip}

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Christen and David, both 31, decided to “rip the Band-Aid off” by breaking the news in a post on David’s Facebook page, which reads:

This is a bit unusual, but here we go. As many of you know, Harper Lee’s second book was recently released, depicting Atticus Finch as a pro-segregationist. We chose this name for our son over a year ago because we felt then that it embodied a beautiful form of selfless integrity. In light of the new book and the fact that our son is so young, we no longer feel comfortable using this name. We have decided to legally change his name to Lucas, and will start calling him Luke as of now. This will be a bit of an adjustment for all who know and love him (Ayala is catching on quicker than us), but we hope you understand and respect that as his parents we feel this is the best thing to do for him.

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Ironically, the name Atticus just topped the most-popular baby names list on Nameberry.com for the first time, co-founder Pamela Redmond Satran told PEOPLE, adding, “Atticus has never been as popular as it is right now.”

The timing is purely coincidental and unrelated to the novel’s release on July 14, but now “the big question is whether Atticus can retain his popularity as a baby name in the light of the racist, ranting Atticus Finch portrayed in Go Set a Watchman,” Satran said.

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