Harper Lee: The Woman Behind the Book

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most famous american novels to date. But what do we really know about Harper Lee, for many not much. It’s been just a few short months since Lee passed away and her memory will forever live on through her very influential novel.


Photo: Biography

On April 28th, 1929 Harper Lee was born as Nelle Harper Lee. Her first name Nelle was the name she primarily went by and Harper Lee was used as her pen name later on in life. Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama where she also spent her entire childhood. Harper Lee was the youngest of four children, she had two sisters, Alice and Louise and one brother named Edwin. Her mother was a homemaker while her father practiced as a lawyer.

If you’re familiar with Harper Lee, you’ve probably heard many rumors circulating  on whether or not she actually wrote her famous novel. One of those rumors includes the very famous Truman Capote being the actual writer of To Kill a Mockingbird. Well, one of the reasons that this rumor has come about, is because Lee and Capote were real life childhood friends. As a young boy Capote was often picked on and rumor has it that Lee often stood up to these bullies for him. The only explanation to these rumors circulating is that these two were very close friends when they were younger, but there is no proof that Lee didn’t write her debut novel.

As Lee got older her interest in literature began to develop and grow. In 1944 she graduated from Monroe County High School, she then went on to attend Huntingdon College. After one year at Huntingdon, Lee decided to transfer to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. While attending the University of Alabama, Lee became the publication editor for the schools magazine Rammer Jammer. However, Lee eventually left her position with the newspaper because she was accepted into law school, making it much more difficult for her to maintain her editing position.

Harper Lee studied law for one year before she decided that her love for writing outweighed her love for politics. After attending Oxford University in England for a summer Lee returned to the University of Alabama only to drop out. The 23 year old decided to pursue a career in writing and moved to New York City in 1949. It was in New York where Lee reunited with her childhood friend Truman to help assist him with his own writing.

It wasn’t until 1960 that her debut novel was published. A very condensed version of the novel was featured in Reader’s Digest, which helped the novel gain popularity. One year later To Kill a Mockingbird was nominated and won the Pulitzer Prize along with many other awards. The novel was then picked up for a movie deal and was adapted into the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck.

As we mentioned earlier, many of you probably don’t know much about Harper Lee. This is because Lee was a very private person, after the success of her famous novel Lee rarely made appearances or participated in interviews. Lee never published another novel. What we’ve mentioned up until this point is what little we know about the mysterious author.

In 2015 the novel Go Se a Watchman was published, this novel was advertised as the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. A lot of controversy lies behind this novel and many have questioned whether Lee was taken advantage of in her old age. What we do know for sure is that Go Set a Watchman is actually the original manuscript for To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel is technically considered Harper Lee’s second published novel.

On Februrary 19th, 2016 Harper Lee passed away in her sleep, the author was 89 years old. Harper Lee will forever be remembered through her novel that has never gone out of print. Today To Kill a Mockingbird is standard literature in many high schools across the nation, and may be considered one of the most widely read american novels.