Harper Lee, a most beloved American author, whose first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has passed away Friday at the age of 89. The news was first reported by AL.com, saying that the news was confirmed by multiple sources in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, including the mayor’s office. Her nephew, Hank Conner, the New York Times reported, said she died in her sleep at the Meadows, an assisted living facility. Slate.com reported that the book was virtually the only published long work—until “last year, when, amid fierce debate, “Go Set a Watchman,” an earlier draft of the story told in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ was released.” “Go Set a Watchman” was indeed her first book, but was revised over and over until it became “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The wildly successful first novel by Harper Lee was about racial injustice in a small Alabama town and was based on her keen and insightful observations as a young person. The plot and characters are loosely based on her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old, said Wikipedia.com. The novel deals with the “irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of two children and the novel was inspired by the racist attitudes she observed as a child in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.”
By 2015, its sales were reported by HarperCollins to be more than 40 million worldwide, making it one of the most widely read American novels of the 20th century. When the Library of Congress did a survey in 1991 on books that have affected people’s lives, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was second only to the Bible. The book was one of the most widely taught works of fiction ever written by an American and required reading in grade and high schools across the country.
The instant success of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the next year, turned Ms. Lee into a literary celebrity, a role she found oppressive and never learned to accept. The enormous success of the film version of the novel, released in 1962 with Gregory Peck in the starring role of Atticus Finch, a small-town Southern lawyer who defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, only added to Ms. Lee’s fame and fanned expectations for her next novel. For more than half a century, it failed to appear. Then, in 2015, long after the reading public had given up on seeing anything more from Ms. Lee, a sequel appeared under mysterious circumstances.
“I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird,'” Ms. Lee said in 1964. “I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers, but, at the same time I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement.”
What she got instead, she said, “I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”
Though Lee published only this single book for half a century, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Lee has received numerous honorary degrees, and declined to speak on each occasion. Lee assisted close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Though Lee published only this single book for half a century, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Lee has received numerous honorary degrees, and declined to speak on each occasion. Lee assisted close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). After completing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Lee accompanied her friend Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in researching what they thought would be an article on a small town’s response to the murder of a farmer and his family. Capote expanded the material into his best-selling book, “In Cold Blood,” published in 1966. The Capote book was lauded at the time for its new style of writing of a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. Capote gave much credit to Harper Lee for giving the book credence.
President George W. Bush presented Harper Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Lee was a Pulitzer Prize winner and was the medal’s 2007 recipients in the East Room of the White House on November 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is given to those who have made remarkable contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, culture, or other private or public endeavors.
That she was.