Yoon Joung Lee
The author of one of the most affecting novels, To Kill a Mockingbird, Nelle Harper Lee, was born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926 as the youngest of five children. Her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was a former newspaper editor and proprietor and her mother, Frances Finch, was a homemaker. As a child, she was a tomboy and loved to read books. She had a best friend named, Truman Capote who she met at her very young age and kept their friendship for a long time.
She developed her interest in English literature in high school. In 1944 after high school, she again studied English literature when she attended the all-girl Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama from 1944 to 1945. Unlike Lee’s girl friends who were interested in dating or fashion, she was more interested in writing. In 1945, she transferred to the University of Alabama where she studied Law. However, in 1949 Lee left Alabama without completing her degree and moved to New York to pursue a literary career.
There, she worked as an airline ticket agent. While she was in the city, she reunited with her old friend, Capote and met Broadway composer Michael Brown. She had also written some short stories and found a literary agent. In 1956, Michael Brown invited Lee to spend Christmas with him and his wife. Brown gave her a year’s monetary support that changed her life forever. She quit her job at the airline and devoted her time on writing.
Within a year, she wrote the first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. The novel was published in 1960 after two years of revisions and rewrites under the oversight of Tay Hohoff, an editor at J.B. Lippincott & Co. To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate hit and became a bestseller. Lee won numerous awards for the novel including the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. The novel sold over 30 million copies and came out in more than 30 different languages. The film version of the novel was released in 1962. About one million copies of the novel are still sold each year.
After her success with, To Kill A Mockingbird, Lee tried to publish her next novel, The Long Goodbye, but the book was unfinished because there was too much pressure on her for publishing another bestseller. In 1964, after she moved back to her hometown, Monroeville, to live with her sister Alice, she decided to withdraw from public life and refused interviews by media. Although she refused to be treated as celebrity, her work still spoke for itself. To Kill A Mockingbird tells millions of people that we should understand and respect the differences of each other.