Sun, Feb 21, 2016 - Page 7 News List

‘To Kill a Mockinbird’ author dies at 89


Harper Lee, the elusive novelist whose child’s-eye view of racial injustice in a small Southern town, To Kill a Mockingbird, became standard reading for millions of young people and an Oscar-winning film, has died. She was 89.

Lee died on Friday, publisher HarperCollins said in a statement.

It did not give any details about how she died.

“The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer, but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness. She lived her life the way she wanted to — in private — surrounded by books and the people who loved her,” Michael Morrison, head of HarperCollins US general books group, said in the statement.

For most of her life, Lee divided her time between New York City, where she wrote the novel in the 1950s, and her Alabama hometown, which inspired the book’s fictional Maycomb.

To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, is the story of a girl nicknamed Scout growing up in a Depression-era Southern town.

The book quickly became a best-seller, won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie in 1962, with Gregory Peck winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus. As the civil rights movement grew, the novel inspired a generation of young lawyers and was assigned in schools all over the country.

By last year, its sales were reported by HarperCollins to be more than 40 million worldwide, making it one of the most widely read US novels of the 20th century. When the Library of Congress did a survey in 1991 on books that have affected people’s lives, To Kill a Mockingbird was second only to the Bible.

Lee became more mysterious as her book became more famous. She began declining interviews in the late 1960s and, until late in her life, firmly avoided making any public comment about her novel or her career.

Other than a few magazine pieces for Vogue and McCall’s in the 1960s and a review of a 19th-century Alabama history book in 1983, she published no other writings until stunning the world last year by permitting Go Set a Watchman to be released.

Watchman was written before Mockingbird, but was set 20 years later, using the same location and many of the same characters.

Readers and reviewers were disheartened to find an Atticus who seemed nothing like the hero of the earlier book.

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