Nelle Harper Lee, better known by her more memorable pen name Harper Lee, was born in Alabama on April 28, 1926. During the 20th Century, the American South became a cornerstone for social and legal change, and thus produced some of the country’s most extraordinary literary talents – remember Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Flannery O’Connor?
The vast region’s fascinating history and controversial culture has inspired novelist after novelist, with most writers exploring themes of prejudice and violence. But while the majority of the Deep South’s authors closely resemble eachother, both in their literary musings and background, Lee has become somewhat of an exception.
Unlike her peers, Lee wrote just one novel. To Kill A Mockingbird became an immediate classic and perhaps the best selling publication of the century. The narrative details racial injustice in a small, fictional Alabama town, and since its publication in 1960, it has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
Rather than cashing in on her success with numerous subsequent novels, Lee (who sadly passed away last year) largely avoided the media in the aftermath of her triumph. Of course, one could argue that she hardly needed to keep on writing anyway, but while she largely succeeded in protecting herself from the scrutiny that comes alongside being a world-famous author, the burden of fame has potentially prevented her from producing more of her enlightening and thought-provoking work.
Subsequently, although widely regarded as a literary genius, as well as, in many ways, a social commentator, today, on her birthday, one can’t help but wonder, what have we really missed out on?