Harper Lee

From Academic Kids

Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist, author of the classic 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper was born in Monroeville, Alabama as Nelle Harper Lee , the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Mr. Lee, a descendent of Civil War General Robert E. Lee, was a lawyer and newspaper editor in Monroeville who had served as state senator between 1926 and 1938. A voracious reader and admitted tomboy, Harper and her siblings and friends improvised imaginative adventures. "We had to use our own devices in our play, for our entertainment. We didnt have much money.... We didnt have toys, nothing was done for us, so the result was that we lived in our imagination most of the time. We devised things; we were readers and we would transfer everything we had seen on the printed page to the backyard in the form of high drama.

After graduating from High School in Monroeville, Harper attended the female Huntingdon College in Montgomery for only a year before transferring to law school at the University of Alabama in 1945 where she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, Rammer-Jammer. Though she did not complete the requirements of her law degree, she did pursue studies for a year at Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950.

She worked for a while in New York as an airline reservation clerk, but soon, with the emotional and financial support of friends, determined to pursue a career in writing. In 1959, Lee worked with Truman Capote as a assistant for his novel, In Cold Blood, traveling with him to Holcomb, Kansas to conduct research. Capote credited her with "secretarial work", and dedicated the book to her. She eventually put together a series of her own short stories about life in the South, and submitted them to the J. P. Lippincott Company for publication in 1957. Encouraged by her editor, Tay Hohoff, to work the stories into a novel, she produced To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published in 1960.

To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate best-seller and won her great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a best-seller today and has earned a secure place in the canon of American literature. In 1999 it was voted Best Novel of the Century in a poll conducted by the Library Journal.

Lee was overwhelmed with the immediate success of this first book. In a conversation with Roy Newquist for his 1964 book Counterpoint, she revealed her reaction: I never expected any sort of success with 'Mockingbird.' I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected." Since that time she has granted virtually no requests for interviews or public appearances. With the exception of a few short essays, Lee has published no further writings.

Lee favorably reviewed the 1962 Academy Award-winning screenplay adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird by Horton Foote, saying that, "If the integrity of a film adaptation can be measured by the degree to which the novelist's intent is preserved, Mr. Foote's screenplay should be studied as a classic." She also became a close friend of star Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, the hero of the book. She remains close to the Peck family, and his grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named for her.

Truman Capote, a lifelong friend and childhood neighbor, was allegedly the inspiration for the character of Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Capote frequently implied that he himself had written a considerable portion of the novel, and at least one person - Pearl Kazin Bell, an editor at Harper's who cited Lee's failure to produce another novel, has gone on record supporting his co-authorship.

Although she has received a number of honors, she makes infrequent public appearances. She has been known to split time between an apartment in New York and her sister's home in Monroeville. She has accepted honorary degrees, but has declined to make speeches. At the urging of Peck's widow Veronique, Lee did travel by train from Monroeville to Los Angeles in 2005 to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award.

Fueled by her withdrawal from public life, there is persistent but unfounded speculation that more publications are in the works. Similar speculation has followed fellow writers J.D. Salinger and Ralph Ellison.

Works by Harper Lee

  • Template:Book reference
  • Lee, Harper. Christmas to Me. McCalls 89 (December 1961) p. 63.
  • Lee, Harper. LoveIn Other Words. Vogue 137 (April 15, 1961) pp. 64-65.
  • Lee, Harper. "When Children Discover America." McCall's 92 (August, 1965) pp. 76-79.
  • Lee, Harper. Romance and High Adventure. in Clearings in the Thicket: An Alabama Humanities Reader, Jerry Elijah Brown, editor. (Macon, Georgia.: Mercer University Press, 1985) pp. 13-20


  • Template:Book reference
  • Erisman, Fred. (April, 1973) The Romantic Regionalism of Harper Lee. Alabama Review No. 26. pp. 122-136.
  • Childress, Mark. (May 1997). "Looking for Harper Lee." Southern Living (magazine). pp. 148-50
  • Going, William T. (1989) "Truman Capote: Harper Lee's Fictional Portrait of the Artist as an Alabama Child". Alabama Review Vol. 42, No. 2. pp. 136-149
  • Template:Book reference
  • Lacher, Irene. (May 21, 2005). "Harper Lee raises her low profile for a friend." Los Angeles Times

External links

eo:Harper LEE he:נל הרפר לי ja:ハーパー・リー


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