Remembering Harper Lee (1926-2016)

Bookworms, have you heard the latest heartbreaking news to come our way?

This past Friday, beloved author Harper Lee passed away in her sleep at the age of 89.

Harper Lee has made a significant literary impact with her one and only novel, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It's a book most people in the United States have read, since it's a high school English classroom staple. English Class was my first encounter with the author and title as well, and even now, it's one of the books I cite as being "a favorite book I HAD to read in school." Sometimes you hate the books you HAVE to read. Sometimes, you fortunately love them. I really loved TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and it's one of the few times, I thought the movie version held up well to a novel and loved it just as well.

Last year, HarperCollins controversially published GO SET A WATCHMAN as a second, "undiscovered" novel by Lee. In actuality, it was an unfinished rough draft of what would eventually become TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I can't see it as a novel, but as a literary work designed to help writers and scholars see the process of the long road to publication. Books can be extremely rough and unfinished. Characters can change and evolve. Scenarios can be modified. Lee didn't strike gold with her story until she made Scout younger and changed the backdrop of her story. GO SET A WATCHMAN should never have been published the way it was, and I hate that it was published in that way, especially since nobody benefited save for the attorney who "discovered" the manuscript and the publisher who brought it to the world's attention.

But enough about that! This is a post to celebrate a life. Harper Lee shaped so much of literary history, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD can rightfully be called a classic despite it not being as old as a book by, say, Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare. Authors still refer to the author and title in their own works.

Two that come immediately to mind are THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney and I KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD by  Paul Acampora. I loved THE MOCKINGBIRDS because of all the references to the original novel that I'd loved so much in high school. It was one of the first YA books I read after I'd "outgrown" YA before I rediscovered it shortly after I started blogging. I loved all the small things in the novel that referenced the classic, and how students used them to form their own judicial system when teachers were of no help. I was really excited to read I KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD because I heard it was about a trio of students up in arms trying to get every student at school to read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD when they have a choice of summer reading titles, and how their wishes go viral and inspire a country to read.

This month, honor Harper Lee's memory by re-reading a classic...or fall in love with a new book that couldn't exist without her!

Rest in glorious peace, Harper Lee. Your words have touched--and will continue to touch--more people than you ever dreamed you might!