Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird and a giant in American literature, has died, according to AL.com, which first reported the news. Her publisher, HarperCollins, confirmed the news to the New York Times. She was 89 and lived in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.
Lee, who was born Nelle Harper Lee in 1926, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 for To Kill A Mockingbird, which was adapted into a beloved film starring Gregory Peck. The plot featured a tomboy named Scout Finch and her father, Atticus Finch, a crusading lawyer fighting to free a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. After that, Lee stopped publishing her fiction for decades, living a reclusive live in Alabama. She was only seen in public on rare occasions, in which she received awards or honorary degrees.
"I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird," Lee told a radio interviewer in 1964, shortly before she stopped granting interviews altogether. "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 well enough to give me encouragement. I got rather a whole lot [of encouragement], and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected."
Go Set A Watchman, a controversial follow-up to her 1961 classic, was published in 2015. The novel was based on preliminary materials Lee had sent her publisher in 1957 while working on what would become To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel features an adult Scout Finch and gives patriarch Atticus Finch views on race that seem at odds with his crusade for justice in Mockingbird. Critics accused those around Lee of manipulating her into publishing Watchman, and questioned whether Lee was mentally competent enough to give consent. But in a statement, Lee said the decision was all hers: "After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication."
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