Harper Lee Makes Rare Public Statement to Repudiate Memoir

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Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, issued a statement through her sister's law firm yesterday distancing herself from an upcoming book about her life. The book, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, was written by the former Chicago Tribune reporter Marja Mills.

Mills's side of the story: According to a release from Penguin Press, which announced its acquisition of the book on Tuesday, The Mockingbird Next Door was "written with direct access to Harper and Alice Lee and their friends and family."

In an interview the next day, Mills's agent, Miriam Altshuler, said that Mills "has the written support of Alice Lee and a lifelong family friend, and prior to Harper Lee's stroke in 2007, she had the verbal support of Harper Lee."

Lee's side of the story: Lee released a statement on Wednesday that said, "Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false."

Lee, who (as it happens) turns 85 today, hasn't given a public interview in 45 years. Her statement yesterday marks one of the few times she's surfaced to make any sort of remarks to the media--it's now up there with her 1983 essay "High Romance and Adventure," her 2006 letter to O: The Oprah Magazine where she talked about her love of reading, and her brief encounter with a Daily Mail reporter last year where she mentioned her plans to feed some ducks.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.