Harper Lee, the iconic American author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died Friday in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, her publisher, HarperCollins, confirmed.
In a statement, Michael Morrison, the publishing firm’s president, said:
The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness. She lived her life the way she wanted to—in private—surrounded by books and the people who loved her.
Lee, the youngest of four children and the daughter of a prominent lawyer in segregated Alabama, was a few months shy of her 90th birthday. The famously reclusive author had suffered a stroke in 2007 and she spent the last several years in a nursing home not far from her childhood home.
In The Atlantic’s 1960 review of Mockingbird, our critic characterized what would eventually become one of the most important works of 20th-century American fiction as “respectable hammock reading” and “sugar-water served with humor.”
It is frankly and completely impossible, being told in the first person by a 6-year-old girl with the prose style of a well-educated adult.
It’s true that were Lee’s seminal book to be released today, it would probably qualify as a Young Adult novel, but its style didn’t stop the work about racial injustice from winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, becoming the basis for a wildly popular film, or from seeming dangerous.