Lee, Harper

Lee, Harper
born April 28, 1926, Monroeville, Ala., U.S.

U.S. novelist.

The daughter of a lawyer, Lee attended the University of Alabama but left for New York City before obtaining a law degree. An editor helped her transform a series of short stories into the novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). Lee's only novel, it was nationally acclaimed, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and was adapted into a memorable film in 1962. The novel's hero is the white lawyer Atticus Finch, whose just and compassionate acts include an unpopular defense of a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl. The book continued to resonate into the 21st century.

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▪ American writer
in full  Nelle Harper Lee 
born April 28, 1926, Monroeville, Alabama, U.S.

      American writer nationally acclaimed for her one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

      Related to Robert E. Lee (Lee, Robert E.)'s family, Harper Lee was the daughter of a lawyer apparently rather like the hero-father of her novel in his sound citizenship and warmheartedness. Lee attended the University of Alabama (spending a year as an exchange student at Oxford University) but left for New York City before obtaining her own law degree. In New York she worked as an airlines reservationist but soon received financial aid from friends that allowed her to write full-time. With the help of an editor, she transformed a series of short stories into To Kill a Mockingbird.

      The narrator of the novel is lawyer Atticus Finch's six-year-old daughter “Scout.” Scout and her brother Jem learn the principles of racial justice and social tolerance from their father, whose just and compassionate acts include an unpopular defense of a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl. They also develop tolerance and the strength to follow their convictions in their acquaintance and eventual friendship with a recluse who has been demonized by the community. To Kill a Mockingbird received a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Criticism of its tendency to sermonize has been matched by praise of its insight and stylistic effectiveness. It became a memorable film in 1962 and was filmed again in 1997.

      After a few years in New York, Lee divided her time between that city and her hometown of Monroeville. In addition to her novel she wrote a few short essays, including the 1983 “Romance and High Adventure,” devoted to Alabama history. In 2007 Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Universalium. 2010.

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