Today's Monday Mourning is mine. I spent some time reading about Harper Lee's life after her death at age 89 last week and I felt the need to paint her.
Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, the youngest of four children. “Nelle” was a backward spelling of her maternal grandmother’s first name, and she dropped it when “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published, out of fear that readers would pronounce it Nellie, which she hated.
Harper Lee, like her alter ego Scout, was a tough little tomboy who enjoyed beating up the local boys, climbing trees and rolling in the dirt. One boy on the receiving end of Nelle’s thrashings was Truman Persons (later Capote), who spent several summers next door to Nelle with relatives. The two became fast friends, acting out adventures from and, after Nelle’s father gave the two children an old Underwood typewriter, making up their own stories to dictate to each other. (source)
In high school, Lee developed an interest in English literature. After graduating in 1944, she went to the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery. Transferring to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Lee was known for being a loner and an individualist. She contributed to the school's newspaper and its humor magazine, eventually becoming the publication's editor.
In 1949, a 23-year-old Lee arrived in New York City. She struggled for several years, working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines and for the British Overseas Air Corp. In 1956, friends gave Lee an impressive Christmas present—to support her for a year so that she could write full time. She quit her job and devoted herself to her craft.
In 1959, she finished the manuscript for her Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller To Kill a Mockingbird. Soon after, she helped her friend Truman Capote write an article for The New Yorker which would later evolve into his nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. When Capote's book was finally published in 1966, a rift developed between the two collaborators for a time. Lee spent some of her time on a nonfiction book project about an Alabama serial killer which had the working title The Reverend. This work, however, was never published. (source)
During the 1970s and '80s, Lee largely retreated from public life. Her friends and correspondents, pointed out that she cherished and guarded her privacy – but was not a “recluse.” Because of Mockingbird’s towering stature in American life and literature – achieved early in her life – she was by accident more famous than she wanted to be. She wanted to be an ordinary person. She didn’t want to be on talk shows, or ride in limousines, or have strangers recognize her at the airport. (source)
She will be in death what she had been for most of her life: a symbol of justice and kindness and of all that can be achieved when one little person tries to change a very large world. Nelle Harper Lee may have died, but Harper—the person who was so much more—will live on. (source)