Harper Lee is known far and wide for her classic book To Kill a Mockingbird. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is still required reading in many school systems throughout the United States. You’d be hard-pressed to find a child, especially in the South, who hasn’t at least heard of the book and its author.
Ten Facts about Harper Lee
Here are a few things about one of the most famous living American authors that might just surprise you:
- To Kill a Mockingbird was Harper Lee’s first and only published book. It was first released in 1960. There is, however, another book in Lee’s quiver. Unpublished and forgotten for more than 50 years, Go Set a Watchman was actually written before Mockingbird. It is set to be released without revision in July of 2015.
- Harper Lee was named after her mother’s mother, Ellen Finch, in a somewhat roundabout way. Lee’s first name, Nelle, is Ellen spelled backwards.
- In addition to Watchman and Mockingbird, Lee spent a great deal of time writing a non-fiction book about a serial killer in Alabama. Its working title was The Reverend, but it has never been published.
- Harper Lee seriously considered following in her father, Amasa Lee’s, footsteps. She began law school at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, where she was also the editor for the school’s paper, Rammer Jammer. However she dropped out and moved to New York to become a serious writer. She would eventually help childhood friend Truman Capote research his novel, In Cold Blood.
- During the filming of the To Kill a Mockingbird movie, Lee became fast friends with the film’s star, Gregory Peck, who played Atticus Finch. Peck’s grandson, Harper Peck Voll, was named after Lee.
- It is rumored that Lee pitched Mockingbird out the window of her office in New York and into the snow. The reason? Writer’s block.
- It wasn’t until 2014 that Harper Lee allowed To Kill a Mockingbird to be published as an eBook. She once told Oprah Winfrey, “I’m still old fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries.”
- In 1966, when a school board in Virginia decided to remove Mockingbird from its libraries, Lee wrote a strongly worded letter to school officials wondering whether “any of [its] members could read,” and enclosed with her letter a small contribution, encouraging it to enroll members of the same school board in the “first grade of its choice.”
- Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, presented by George W. Bush.
- It has been rumored that Truman Capote, not Harper Lee, wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Fiction writer Jim Gilbert investigated this claim in 2001, and came to the conclusion that Lee did—in fact—write the novel. He wrote an article about his belief that Lee was the true author. Working in a library sometime later, he received a phone call from a woman who told him, “It was a very nice article, and I want to let you know you’re right, I did write that book.”
Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird may never know everything they’d like to about Harper Lee, but perhaps the above facts are a good start to understanding a little more about the amazing mind who created one of the most beloved books of all time.
What’s your favorite Harper Lee trivia? Let us know!