Brow Beat

Harper Lee Dies at 89

Harper Lee
Harper Lee, visting her home town of Monroeville, Alabama, May 1, 1961.

Donald Uhrbrock/The Life Images Collection/Getty Images

Harper Lee, the author of the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, has died, the local news site reported. Lee famously never published another book after that 1960 novel won the Pulitzer Prize—until last year, when, amid fierce debate, Go Set a Watchman, an earlier draft of the story told in Mockingbird, was released. 

Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville and moved to New York as a young woman. She wrote and rewrote the book that would become To Kill a Mockingbird under the eye of her editor Tay Hohoff at Lippincott & Co., reshaping the novel from a contemporary book about a young woman much like herself into a ruminative, gentle story of childhood in the South. The book became a classic, winning the Pulitzer and selling more than 40 million copies in the 56 years since its publication.

In 2015, HarperCollins announced that it was publishing a newly discovered novel by Lee, Go Set a Watchman. Many observers and fans feared that the book was being published against the wishes of Lee, who chose for most of the half-century following Mockingbird to live a quiet life without publication in her hometown. Others leapt at the opportunity to read a new novel featuring characters they’d loved since childhood, and—despite the surprise of once-noble Atticus Finch espousing racist views—the novel became an immediate best-seller this past summer, selling 1.6 million copies in 2015