Publication Order of Standalone Novels
|To Kill a Mockingbird||(1960)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Go Set a Watchman||(2015)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
Publication Order of Omnibus Books
Harper Lee is an American author famous for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird. The novel was first published in 1960. In 2015, Harper Lee published a second novel, Go Set A Watchman.
Nelle Harper Lee was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. As a child she was regarded as a tomboy as she grew up with four siblings. Her father, Frances Cunningham (Finch), was a lawyer while her mother, Amasa Coleman Lee, lived a secluded life at home. Some believe her mother may have suffered from a mental disorder.
Harper Lee realized her gift of writing in high school and after graduating in 1944 she went to Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama. In college Lee was devoted to writing and she was also a member of the literary honor society. She eventually transferred to the University of Alabama where she continued to purse her writing by writing for the school newspaper and magazine. In time she became editor of the magazine.
She was eventually accepted into the law school at the University of Alabama and so gave up editing for the magazine due to the amount of school work. It soon became clear to Lee that law was not her true passion — it was writing. She dropped out of law school and moved to New York City.
While in New York she befriended Michael Martin Brown and his wife who believed in her art so much they donated a year of wages to her so she could focus on writing. During this time Lee worked on the manuscript that would eventually become known as To Kill A Mockingbird.
To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1960 and almost instantly became a success. The book became widely available through the Book of the Month Club and a condensed version was featured in Reader’s Digest.
In 1961, To Kill A Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize. It has been translated into ten languages and sold more than 30 million copies. It has never been out of print since it was first published. A survey conducted in 1991 suggests To Kill A Mockingbird ranked only behind the Bible as having the largest impact and “making a difference”.
The story of To Kill A Mockingbird is loosely based on Lee’s family and experiences as a child. It illustrates the ridiculous notions of race and class which were prevalent in the 1930s. It takes place during the Great Depression in a fictional Alabama town. The main character’s father has been appointed to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. The main character’s family is harassed for their involvement with the case. The greatest element of the story is Harper Lee’s ability to narrative the story from a child’s perspective while still conveying a vision of how justice works. She uses the narrator’s voice of a child observing her surrounding but it’s actually a grown woman remembering her past. This allows Lee to delve into complex adult issues about race and class with finesse.
Songbirds and their symbolism are prevalent throughout the novel. At once point the father exclaims, “shoot all the blue jays they want, they must remember it’s a sin To Kill A Mockingbird.” The child character is confused but discovers that mockingbirds never harm anything else. “They don’t do one thing but sing their heart out for us,” she’s told by a neighbor.
A screen play based off the book was written and adapted for the 1962 film To Kill A Mockingbird. The movie version of her book was also a huge success earning eight Academy Award nominations. Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor in his portrayal of Atticus Finch.
In 1990 a play was adapted based off the book and performed in Monroeville, Alabama. The play is performed every May with a cast made up of local citizens. The town of Monroeville, Alabama has dubbed itself “The Literary Capital of Alabama”. The novel is reportedly so beloved in Monroeville, Alabama that the locals quote the book like scripture. Harper Lee has refused to attend any of the play performances based off her book because she claims to be utterly disgusted by anything hitching on the book’s fame.
To Kill A Mockingbird has been the center of controversy since it was first published and even more so after being introduced to classroom study. The book is riddled with racial slurs and talk about rape which has led many to wonder if it is appropriate to share with students.
After To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee continued to work on literary projects but they were not published. For the most part she lived a quiet life and avoided publicity. She started to turn down interviews with the gripe that many of the questions were the same. She made it a strict policy to quit talking to the media about her book and refuses publicity with a, “Hell, no!”
In 2001 Lee earned her spot in the Alabama Academy of Honor and in 2006 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.
In 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for her “outstanding contribution to America’s literary tradition”. President Bush stated that the book has influenced the country for the better and it has been a gift to the whole world.
She also suffered a stroke in 2007 that placed several physical limitations on her life. Though she lost a lot of her eye-sight and hearing, she still found ways to read; however, Harper Lee maintained that she would never publish another book.
In 2010 Harper Lee was awarded the National Medal of Arts for her “Outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts.
Harper Lee’s novel titled Go Set A Watchman was discovered by her lawyer in a safety deposit box. Harper Lee initially wrote Go Set A Watchman before To Kill A Mockingbird, but it was rejected by the publisher. Lee had re-worked the manuscript so much that it eventually became To Kill A Mockingbird. Go Set A Watchman is a novel that was published for the first time in July 2015.Book Series In Order » Authors » Harper Lee