To Kill A Mockingbird: 7 facts you didn’t know about Harper Lee

  • Reuters, Alabama
  • Updated: Feb 20, 2016 13:05 IST
Author Harper Lee at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in January 2006. Lee’s first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, about racial injustice in a small Alabama town, sold more than 10 million copies and became one of the most beloved and most taught works of fiction ever written by an American. (NYT)

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird became one of the most beloved books in US literary history. Here are seven facts about Lee, who died at the age of 89:

1. She went by Harper, her middle name, because she was afraid her first name, Nelle, would be mispronounced as “Nellie,” not “Nell.”

2. Lee based the To Kill a Mockingbird character Dill on childhood friend Truman Capote, who in turn used her as the basis for a character in his Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Read: Harper Lee, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ dies at 89

3. To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize the following year, but Conrad Richter’s The Waters of Kronos beat her out for the National Book Award.

Former US President George W. Bush with Lee after awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007. (REUTERS)

4. Lee’s fans were stunned to learn 55 years after publication of the novel of a long-stashed manuscript written before To Kill a Mockingbird and even more stunned that Atticus, the hero of the first book, was portrayed as a segregationist in Go Set a Watchman. Atticus was based on Lee’s father.

A woman with a copy of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. (REUTERS)

5. Lee and actor Gregory Peck became friends during the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird. She remained close to his family and Peck’s grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named for her.

Read: As ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ soared, author Harper Lee grew more elusive

6. To Kill a Mockingbird created a cottage industry in her hometown, Monroeville, Alabama, with a museum dedicated to it, although Lee filed a lawsuit claiming it was selling unlicensed merchandise, such as To Kill a Mockingbird beverage coasters.

Flowers are placed on a statue of a girl reading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird outside a memorial for Lee in Monroeville. (AP)

Sandra Bullock portrayed Lee in a film. (REUTERS)

7. Actresses Sandra Bullock (Infamous in 2006) and Catherine Keener (Capote in 2005) portrayed Lee in movies about the writing of Capote’s In Cold Blood.

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