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Harper Lee Dies at 89

Harper Lee passed away in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama yesterday, February 18, 2016. The author was well known for penning the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), and the controversial sequel that was released in July 2015, Go Set a Watchman.

 

The beloved author was not only responsible for providing literature lovers everywhere with another classic, but for producing a book in a time-period of segregation that explicitly focused on racial inequality and class in the South. To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in 1930s Alabama, and tells the story of lawyer Atticus Finch who defends Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of rape. The story was inspired by events that Lee witnessed while growing up.

Mockingbird not only won Lee a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, but also inspired the 1962 Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck—a film that many believe to be one of the best ever made. Lee mirrored those thoughts when she commented on the adaptation, saying, “I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.” Additionally, character Atticus Finch was named the greatest movie hero of the 20th century in 2003 by AFI; and, it was also just announced that an adaptation of the classic book is coming to Broadway, with Aaron Sorkin to write the script. 

Although Lee originally planned for a second novel, she then changed her mind stating that she’d never publish another book. Despite this, Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015, with controversy surrounding both Lee’s ability to give consent for the novel’s publication and the portrayal of Atticus Finch—a once beloved father, now a racist.

 

Lee gave her last interview in 1964, and since then lived in New York before moving back to Monroeville, Alabama with her sister Alice—where the author suffered a stroke in 2007. The book community will never forget Lee’s contribution to American literature and the impact it had (and continues to have) during such a segregated time.  

Harper Lee in 1961.

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