Remembering Harper Lee

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Natasha Caudill, Staff Writer

Author of the beloved To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee passed away on February 19 at the age of 89.

Born in 1926, Lee grew up in Monroeville, Alabama. Her interest in English literature grew in high school and while enrolled at the University of Alabama, she wrote stores for the campus newspaper. In 1950, Lee moved to New York City and found a job as an airline reservation agent. In her free time she wrote short stories, often basing them off people she had known in Monroeville. Lee received the equivalent of a years salary from friends, who encouraged her to take a year to focus solely on writing.

In 1957, the first manuscript of Go Set a Watchman was sent to publishers. The copy sparked the interest of Tay Hohoff of the Lippincott publishing company, who immediately saw Lee’s talent as a writer. Over the next few years, Hohoff and Lee worked through drafts to create the final copy of the retitled book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Released on July 11, 1960, the novel was an instant success and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. In her later years Lee was known as a recluse and rarely accepted interviews.

In 2015, the sequel Go Set a Watchman was published. Previously thought to have been lost, Watchman was the first draft that Lee sent to publishers in the 1950’s that would later turn into To Kill a Mockingbird.