Arts and Culture

Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, has died in her home state of Alabama. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Lee died in her hometown of Monroeville; city officials confirmed reports of her death to Alabama Public Radio, and her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

In 2007, Lee was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom; her famous novel has sold tens of millions of copies and has been translated into dozens of languages.

Lee made headlines last year, on the news that a companion to her beloved novel would be coming out some 55 years after it was first published in 1960. That book, Go Set a Watchman, was published last summer. It also set off debates about the author’s health and how involved she was with the project.

An Alabama native, Lee moved to New York City in 1948 with the dream of being a writer. For about eight years, she worked as an airline reservationist at Eastern Airlines.

As NPR reported last summer:

“Lee’s fortunes began to improve at the end of 1956 when her friends Michael and Joy Williams Brown gave Nelle, as those close to Lee call her, a generous Christmas gift: enough money to spend a year writing. That’s when she completed the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman. The novel helped her find an agent, who got her signed to the publisher J.B. Lippincott. But Go Set a Watchman was never released. Instead, Lee’s editor urged her to expand on the flashback passages set during Scout’s childhood. Lee spent more than two years writing and rewriting the novel that became known as To Kill a Mockingbird.”

When it was published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird found immediate success. In addition to Lee winning a Pulitzer for fiction in the following year, the novel inspired a film adaptation that came out in 1962, starring Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

That film was also a smashing success, garnering numerous Academy Award nominations and several wins.

Here’s how news website AL.com describes Lee’s final years:

“Harper Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, recovered and resumed her life in the hometown where she spent many of her 89 years. A guardedly private individual, Lee was respected and protected by residents of the town that displays Mockingbird-themed murals and each year stages theatrical productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Lee returned to Monroeville for good once her sister Alice became ill and needed help. She’d eat breakfast each morning at the same fast-food place, and could later be seen picking up Alice from the law firm founded by their father.”

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