Friday, February 19, 2016

Obituary: Harper Lee

Famous author Harper Lee, 89, has died suddenly. It was a shock to her family because she had seemed to be in good health for her age until she died.

Of course, she is celebrated for her first and only novel (the rough draft, Go Set a Watchman, doesn't really count as a second novel though it was published a couple of years ago), To Kill a Mockingbird, a book about the old South of racism and segregation. It was made into an equally popular 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck. Ever since it was published, it has been a staple of middle school and high schools all over the country.

It took her two years to write it. She took her time about it, just like I am doing with my book. She didn't think it would ever sell, but it succeeded far beyond her expectations.


Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926. She was the youngest of five children born to Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch. Though A.C. was not a widower like Atticus, Lee's mother was mentally ill, so she and her siblings were essentially raised by her father. The two became very close.

She met Truman Persons, who was two years older, as a child. The tomboyish Lee and the sometimes petulant Persons, who was sent away by his parents to spend his summers in Monroeville, became close friends and would spend hours reading and making up stories. Recognizing his daughter's imaginative temperament, A.C. Lee gave her an Underwood typewriter. She carried it everywhere.

Like millions of others, I read her book in middle school back in 1967-1968. I read it only once and never forgot it.

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