Harper Lee, author of Pulitzer Prize winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” died at the age of 89 in her Alabama residence. Lee’s book became one of the most beloved, widely-read, and best-selling novels of the 20th century.
Born in Monroeville, Alabama, Lee was the youngest of four siblings. She developed an interest in English literature while attending Monroe County High School, then after graduation went to study law at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 1949, Lee moved to New York City and accepted a job as an airline reservation agent and wrote fiction in her spare time.
Lee began writing “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the late 1950s. “To Kill a Mockingbird” explores the life of Scout Finch and her father who is an attorney representing a black man accused of raping a white woman in the 1930s South. It is a story of racism, a trial in the South, social conscience and what Lee once called “the conflict of the human soul,” it was narrated by Scout – based on the youthful Lee. Three years after the iconic novel was published, a film starring Gregory Peck was released
In 1961, Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and went on to sell more than thirty million copies in eighteen languages. It was voted Best Novel of the Century in a 1999 Library Journal poll. British Librarians ranked it ahead of the Bible in 2006 as one book “every adult should read before they die.” Lee released her second and final novel in July 2015 entitled “Go Set a Watchman” more than 50 years after her first novel hit bookshelves. “Go Set a Watchman” quickly became a best-selling book, selling more than one million copies in the first week of its release. The book is said to be the sequel of “To Kill a Mockingbird” however was recorded earlier.
“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called ‘Go Set a Watchman,’” said Lee in a statement at the time. “I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”
If you had to choose a book that distilled America to its essence, a narrative synthesized out of our shared history, ideals, aspirations, and sins, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate choice than “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Lee’s family released a statement confirming her passing on Friday morning. It said: “Her passing was unexpected.
She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days as she had requested.”