Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at age 89 yesterday.
Born on April 28, 1926, she grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, where she was close friends with Truman Capote (whom she would later help with his work on In Cold Blood). Her father was a lawyer, like Atticus Finch, the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird.
She published it in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year. The 1962 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck won three Academy Awards.
The book became a beloved classic and a mainstay on assigned reading lists, but Harper Lee turned away from public life, and it seemed unlikely she would publish again. In 2007, she suffered a stroke that led to long-term health issues, which made it even more of a surprise in 2015 when her publisher, HarperCollins, announced it would publish a manuscript found in a safe deposit box that had served as an origin point for To Kill a Mockingbird; that book, Go Set a Watchman, became an instant bestseller last summer, despite controversy as to whether she had been capable of consenting to its publication.
The new book catches up with the characters two decades later; Scout Finch is a young woman living in New York City (as Harper Lee once did), home on a visit to her family. Atticus, once a champion for civil rights in the courtroom, now takes part in anti-integrationist meetings, to his daughter’s horror and disappointment. Many readers were disappointed by a depiction of Atticus as a racist, tainting the character’s image in the popular imagination as a pioneer for equality.
Here you can read TIME's original review of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Here you can read the novel and you can find an exhaustive analysis of the plot, characters and themes here.
"Mockingbird still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.”
Harper Lee, 1993