Legendary writer, Harper Lee, took the world by storm with her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which topped best-seller lists, earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and assured her a permanent status in nationwide English curriculum for eternity. In the years following the novel’s release, she assisted her childhood friend Truman Capote in research for his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, and was somewhat involved during the production of Robert Mulligan’s timeless film adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird. Unfortunately, Lee would never regain those heights of success. She finally released a follow-up just last year (2015). A controversy-shrouded second novel called Go Set a Watchman.
Born and raised in Monroeville, Alabama by politician/lawyer father, Amasa Coleman Lee and mother, Frances Cunningham Lee (Finch). Lee, born Nelle Harper Lee, was a studious pupil in school and eventually worked her way up to women’s college of Huntingdon located in Montgomery. Her mother’s maiden name outs these formative childhood experiences as the basis for To Kill a Mockingbird, while her gallant father is a dead on model for heroic defense attorney Atticus Finch, who was actually reported to have defended two young black men accused of murdering a white shopkeeper . Harper moved to New York City at age 23, where she did obscure labors before landing a literary agent and prepping what would be her magnum opus.
To Kill a Mockingbird is the unforgettable novel of a child in a sleepy Southern town and the “crisis of conscience” that shook it at it’s foundation. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.
The landmark novel, Go Set a Watchman, is set two decades after her previous masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Returning to Maycomb, Alabama. A now 26 year-old Jean Louise Finch, or better known as main character “Scout,” returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. With a plot set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Scout’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people closest to her. Memories from her childhood deluge her as her values and assumptions are questioned. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, as well as an entire world, in painful yet necessary transition—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman conveys a clearer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. It has been described as an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the timeless brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to a novel that has already earned it’s rightful place as an American classic.
To Kill a Mockingbird teaches young readers to love literature, to find joy in the finding of symbols and the identification of themes. Probably most importantly, it teaches empathy, compassion, understanding, peace and tolerance. It is a moral document above all. It wholeheartedly makes the world seem like a warmer, more loving place for the reader. While it’s sad that we didn’t get to experience more from this amazing author, we are fortunate and grateful to have existed in a time where “To Kill A Mockingbird” was part of adolescent literary curriculum. Rest easy dear lady. Your memory will live on!