Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Harper Lee has passed away at 89. The death of the notoriously private author was confirmed earlier today by the clerk of her hometown, Monroeville, Alabama.
Best known for her seminal 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee was also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature, and assisted her close friend Truman Capote on his research for In Cold Blood.
Lee’s final year was marked by controversy and vocal concern from many fans and members of the media that the author, who was by some accounts exhibiting symptoms of dementia at the time, was coerced into agreeing to publish a second novel. In February 2015, Lee’s lawyer announced that a “newly discovered” book by Lee, Go Set a Watchman, would be published in July of that year. Originally written in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman was billed as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, despite actually being an early Mockingbird draft. The Watchman announcement aroused understandable suspicion given Lee’s repeated insistence over the years that she would never publish another novel, and the 2014 death of her sister and caregiver, Alice Lee. Many worried that, without her sister to look after her best interests, Harper, who had undergone a stroke in 2007, was manipulated into agreeing to publish the decades-old draft.
Although Lee and her work were a source of considerable contention over the past year–due both to concerns over her well-fare and to Go Set a Watchman‘s controversial subject matter–none of that negates the indelible mark she made on American literature during her 89 years of life. I sincerely hope that the last year was a peaceful one for Lee, and that she knew she would be leaving the world an important and iconic legacy.
(image via Grand Central Publishing)
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