Meet Harper Lee: 9 Facts About the 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author

The initial news of Harper Lee's newest novel caused quite a stir across the literary community. The book, entitled "Go Set a Watchman" was set as a sequel to her classic "To Kill a Mockingbird," even though it was written before. The novel may be seen as her swan song, as Lee passed away less than a year after its release on Feb. 19, 2016.

While the new book was not without controversy of its own, we were excited to read the new novel, and get to know Harper Lee a little better. Here are nine facts about her life and impact on American literature. 

01
of 09

Harper Lee was born in Alabama in 1926

77695641.jpg
Harper Lee in 2007. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

She has born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926. Her father was an editor, lawyer and senator. Many believe he was the model for some of the characteristics of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

02
of 09

She worked as an airline reservation clerk before she was a writer

508454823.jpg
This is clearly not Harper Lee. But her job may have looked something like this. GraphicaArtis / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

While living in New York City, she supported herself working as an airline reservation clerk, but soon pursued a career in writing. She left her job and put together a series of short stories about life in the South, which she first submitted for publication in 1957. 

03
of 09

'To Kill A Mockingbird' was written while a friend supported her

Nelle_Harper_Lee.jpg
Harper Lee in 1962.

While living in New York, a friend offered to support her for a year while she pursued writing full-time. This is when she wrote the penned the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

04
of 09

'To Kill a Mockingbird' has been banned repeatedly since its publishing

166010454.jpg
chokkicx / Digital Vision Vectors / Getty Images

Due to themes including racial injustice, and sexual and physical violence, the book has been banned repeatedly by school boards and libraries around America. It was even called "immoral literature" when it was banned by a Richmond, Virginia school board. Here is Lee's response:

"Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is 'immoral' has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink."

05
of 09

Truman Capote based a novel character in his first book on her

200px-Other_Voices_Other_Rooms_First.jpg

Supposedly Truman Capote based the character of Idabel in his first novel,  on Lee.

06
of 09

She worked as a researcher for Truman Capote's 'In Cold Blood'

2662302.jpg
Truman Capote in 1966. Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

She was a research assistant to neighbor and childhood friend, Truman Capote when he and wrote "In Cold Blood", based on real-life events in Holcombe, Kansas. Some critics even claim she should be credited as an author of the book. Instead, he dedicated the novel to her.

07
of 09

"To Kill a Mockingbird" won the Pultizer Prize in 1961

77696313.jpg
Harper Lee with President George W. Bush in 2007. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News

"To Kill a Mockingbird" has been honored with numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Harper Lee was honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor by President President George W. Bush in 2007. 

08
of 09

The 1962 film based on the book became a classic all its own

180336319.jpg
Gregory Peck and Mary Badham in the 1962 film. Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

Starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Mary Badham as Scout, and Robert Duvall in his film debut as Boo Radley, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director and would win three of them, including a Best Actor Oscar for Peck. 

09
of 09

She largely disappeared from the limelight after 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

276195119_5b37ea6028_o.jpg
Flickr: Jose Sa | https://www.flickr.com/photos/ups/276195119/

In a 1964 interview, Lee said, "I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement... I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected."