A few of you must be wondering what the whole fuss about, Harper Lee is? You must have picked up a few facts from all the obituaries you have read. Just in case you have missed it, Harper Lee is the author of one of the most famous novels of Modern American Literature – To kill a Mocking Bird. She is probably, one of the very few authors who were world famous with just one book to her credit. Yes, she was a woman, in case you did not get that straight. Harper Lee is her pen name. She was born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, USA.
The novel gained immediate acclaim. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the year 1961. The novel is based on autobiographical incidents and anecdotes from Ms. Lee’s childhood spent living in Monroeville, Alabama, USA.
It is based on an incident that happened near her small town, where two African American men (a father and son) were falsely convicted of killing a white store-keeper. The main character in the novel, Atticus Finch, a lawyer is based on her own father who defended the accused in the court of law. The novel was liked very much for its delicate portrayal of racial prejudice among adults through the eyes of two children Scout and Dill (based on Ms. Lee and her childhood friend Truman Capote).
Why is the book important?
The book gained a lot of attention for its portrayal of racial prejudice and bias among the adult population and the judiciary, especially in small-town southern United States. It was published at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement of 1954-68, whose goal it was to end racial segregation and discrimination of African Americans. The Civil rights Movement also strove to secure legal recognition and federal protection of the citizenship rights of the African American people as enumerated in the Constitution and federal law. The novel is a great way to understand the social underpinnings of small-town southern USA during the period of the Civil Rights Movement. It was and is still used as a book to open conversation about civil rights among teenage students in American schools.
It is not too late, if you have not read it yet. Harper Lee’s sole claim to fame could well be your starting point, on a journey of reading, learning and improving your English. It could just be the first step towards discovering many more classics!