This Goodly Land

Harper Lee (April 28, 1926–present)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Literary Awards

Biographical Information

Harper Lee was born and raised in Monroeville, Ala. For part of her youth, Truman Capote lived next door, and the two played together as children. Lee’s father was an attorney, and she sometimes accompanied him to court. Lee attended Huntingdon College and the law school at the University of Alabama but left both before completing a degree. She moved to New York to be a writer and supported herself by working as an airline reservation clerk. Generous financial support from friends allowed her to quit this job and devote herself to writing full-time. The result was her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which used a disguised version of her hometown as its setting and various family members and friends as models for some of its characters.

After To Kill a Mockingbird was accepted for publication, Lee accompanied her childhood friend Truman Capote to Kansas to assist him with research and interviews for his book In Cold Blood, which he dedicated to her. To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, and a film version was released in 1962. In 1966, Lee was appointed to the newly created National Council of the Arts and served on it through 1972. Although she wrote some articles in the 1960s that were published in national magazines, she has never published another novel. Lee lives quietly, shunning publicity, and divides her time between New York and Monroeville.

Interests and Themes

Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird gives a human face to the civil rights struggle for many readers. It deals with universal themes of morality, courage, prejudice, and the loss of childhood innocence, yet it also gives an insightful and loving portrait of small-town Alabama life.

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Photo courtesy of the Alabama Writers' Forum.

Last updated on May 30, 2008.

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