Birthday: April 28, 1926
Died At Age: 89
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Nelle Harper Lee, Nelle Harper E. Lee
Born in: Monroeville
Famous as: Novelist
Quotes By Harper Lee
father: Amasa Coleman Lee
mother: Frances Cunningham Finch
siblings: Alice Lee
Died on: February 19, 2016
place of death: Monroeville, Alabama, U.S.
U.S. State: Alabama
education: University of Alabama, Huntingdon College, University of Oxford, 1944 - Monroe County High School, University of Alabama School of Law
awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction - 1961
Presidential Medal of Freedom - 2007
Quill Award for Audio book - 2007
Who was Harper Lee?
Harper Lee was an American author who is renowned for her novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. She did not seem to have many companions during her childhood except her neighbour and friend Truman Capote. Lee’s mother probably had some psychological ailments and this left a profound impact on her. Truman also faced domestic problems and the two found an outlet in each other to pour out these grievances which later came out through their writings. Lee wanted to become a writer and to chase this dream she dropped out from her course as an exchange student and tried to pursue her literary career. However, she encountered many obstacles in this path, the major challenge being financial instability. To earn a living and also continue her writing, she took up a job at the airlines. This deterred the aspiring writer from focussing on her writing completely, and she struggled to strike a balance between her work and passion for writing. As they say ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’, she was helped by friends in her pursuit when as a Christmas gift, she received a handsome amount which was enough for her to quit her job and focus on writing. She then penned her novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ which became a bestseller and is still sought after by readers
Childhood & Early Life
She was born as Nelle Harper Lee to Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee on 28th April, 1926, in Monroeville city of Alabama. She was the youngest among four children and her siblings were named Alice, Louise and Edwin.
A friend of Lee who is also a renowned literary figure was Truman Capote. Lee and Capote are childhood mates. They befriended each other when Capote stayed at his maternal relatives’ house in Monroeville city, the same place where Lee resided.
She completed her schooling then in 1944, she enrolled at the ‘Huntingdon College’ located in Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama.
During the period 1945-49, she was a law student at the ‘University of Alabama’, and later, joined the ‘Oxford University’ as a student in the student exchange program.
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Harper Lee went to New York six months before completing her course at the ‘Oxford University’, after she decided to become a writer.
During 1950s, she was employed at the ‘Eastern Air Lines’ and ‘British Overseas Airways’ and served as a reservation clerk, in order to gain financial support , and at the same time wrote stories. There she encountered her childhood friend Truman and also got acquainted with renowned writer Michael Brown and also befriended his wife Joy Williams Brown.
The Christmas of 1956 turned out to be very special for Lee because the Browns became her Santa and presented her with the best gift she could expect. They gave her an envelope which contained a sum of money so that she could resign from the airlines job and devote all her time to writing.
She was highly obliged at this friendly gesture and concentrated on her writing career with renewed zeal so that she did not disappoint her friends who had so much faith in her capabilities.
Her first and only novel till date, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, is regarded as a masterpiece and the author has been entitled to many awards after the publication of this novel.
This book predominantly had the theme of racial discrimination which Lee witnessed during her childhood in Monroeville.
This book was initially not a novel but a series of stories when she approached Tay Hohoff, who worked as an editor at the ‘J. B. Lippincott & Co.’ publishing house. Tay helped her weave her stories into a well-knit novel and after a rigorous hard work of around two years; this novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, was completed.
In 1959, she accompanied her friend Truman in his research for the novel ‘In Cold Blood’ which was based on a true murder incident. She worked as an efficient assistant to Capote, gathering interviews of the people in that locality.
In the year 1960, the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird was published with the author’s pseudo name Harper Lee, as she dropped her first name Nelle.
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This great literary piece became a bestseller soon after it hit the book stores and also received immense acclamation from readers and critics alike. The ‘Library Journal’, which is a trade publication for librarians, conducted a poll and according to that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ has been selected as the ‘Best Novel of the Century’.
This book is still in print and has millions of copies available making it easily accessible to readers.
After a hiatus of about sixty years, Harper Lee has apparently declared to release her second novel entitled ‘Go Set a Watchman’ has been scheduled to hit the book stores in July 2015.
Harper Lee published one novel in her career and this novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ has become one of the best literary pieces that the world has ever been gifted with. It deals with the issue of racism and the autobiographical elements make it more vivid, and probably, this is one of the reasons behind the novel being a bestseller. The setting of the novel is loosely based on the hometown of the writer, and while one character possibly represents Lee, the other apparently is a portrayal of her friend Truman.
Awards & Achievements
Harper Lee's only published novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was awarded the ‘Pulitzer Prize’ in the ‘Fiction’ category in the year 1961.
She was awarded with the ‘Presidential medal of Freedom’ on November 5, 2007. The honor was conferred upon her by former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Personal Life & Legacy
Harper Lee shared a life-long friendship with the renowned author Truman Capote and they both were friends even before they knew that they would take up writing as a profession and become significant literary figures.
She is said to have maintained a private life and as such, little is known about her as a person. However, it is believed that the character of Scout in her novel has been moulded in accordance with the writer herself and knowing Scout would probably provide the readers an insight into Harper Lee.
Harper Lee died in her sleep on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89.
Her novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ has been made into a movie in the year 1962, by the same name and like the novel, the movie too earned appreciation, and even won three ‘Academy Awards’.
This movie has also earned position in many significant lists such as the ‘National film Registry’ and ‘Great American Movies of All Time’ list made ‘American Film Institute’ on its 10th anniversary.
She had an estimated net worth of $35 million