Nell Harper Lee (born Nelle Harper Lee) was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville (Alabama, USA), in a large family of a lawyer. Harper was the youngest of four children. Despite the fact that the girl was a real tomboy, she early became addicted to reading. In the neighborhood lived Truman Capote, who later became a prominent writer and playwright. Harper and Truman, who were in the same class, gradually became friends.
In the spring of 1931, when Lee was only five years old, a hearing in the so-called Scottsborough case began in Alabama. Then there were nine young blacks in the dock who were accused of rape. Initially, they were almost sentenced to death. However, over the next six years, it gradually became clear that the charges were fabricated. As a result, almost all of the accused were released. This process left an indelible impression on young Harper Lee. Decades later, she uses the events of those days as the basis for the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
After graduating from high school in her native Monroeville, Lee entered the Huntingdon Women’s College in Montgomery, and then studied law at the University of Alabama. Already in her student years, she began to publish stories, and also for a year was the editor of a humorous publication.
Six months before graduation, Lee suddenly left for New York – she decided to devote her life to literature. To support herself, the writer worked as an airline ticket salesman. In those years, she lived in a modest apartment, periodically visiting her parents. At the same time, her collaboration with literary agents began.
In late 1956, Harper’s friends decided to give her a generous gift of paid annual leave. Finally, Li was able to begin creating the main book of her life. A year was just enough to write a draft. To Kill a Mockingbird was finally ready in the summer of 1959, and a year later the book was published, instantly becoming a bestseller. Harper Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Best Art of 1961. Later, the book was included in the list of the most outstanding works of American literature.
After the triumph of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has led a rather closed life for many years. The writer did not agree to interviews and did not take part in public life. Continuing work on the second book, she published only a series of short essays.
During her life, Lee has been awarded various prizes and titles several times, habitually refusing public speeches. On August 20, 2007, being invited to the official ceremony of admitting new members to the Alabama Honorary Academy, the writer only uttered that “… it is better to be silent than stupid.”
In the fall of 2007, Harper was forced to move to a nursing home, the reason for this decision was a stroke. A few years earlier, at the age of 104, the elder sister of the writer, Alice, who had been engaged in the affairs of a writer for a long time, had died. Subsequently, Harper virtually cut off all communications with the outside world. For the title of her latest book, Lee chose a quote from the Book of Isaiah – “Go, set a watchman.” The novel, published less than a year before the author’s death, was considered by some critics to be the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Never married and had no children, Harper Lee spent the last years of her life in her native Monroeville. The writer passed away on February 19, 2016, she was 89 years old.