Harper Lee, the novelist from Alabama who captivated America and the world with tales of bravery in the face of bigotry, died on Friday at age 89.
Lee's first novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, is considered one of the great works of 20th-century American literature. It is also widely taught in schools, which made it especially popular among young people.
And so it's not surprising that authors, publishers, literary figures, celebrities, and regular readers began to mourn her immediately after the news of her death broke.
Her publisher, HarperCollins, issued this statement:
"The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don't know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility, and kindness," Michael Morrison, the president of HarperCollins U.S., said in the statement. "She lived her life the way she wanted to — in private — surrounded by books and the people who loved her. I will always cherish the time I spent with her."
Her agent, Andrew Nurnberg, called her "Nelle," as her closest friends did, in his remembrance:
"Knowing Nelle these past few years has been not just an utter delight but an extraordinary privilege. When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever. She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history. We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity."
"Atticus, he was real nice.""Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."When Harper Lee sat down to write To Kill a Mockingbird, she wasn't seeking awards or fame. She was a country girl who just wanted to tell an honest story about life as she saw it. But what that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves. Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country. Ms. Lee changed America for the better. And there is no higher tribute we can offer her than to keep telling this timeless American story – to our students, to our neighbors, and to our children – and to constantly try, in our own lives, to finally see each other.
Today, we mourn the loss of Alabama's treasured author Nelle Harper Lee. Harper Lee's literary impact reaches far beyond the borders of our state and nation. To Kill a Mockingbird has impacted people around the word. It is because of Harper Lee that the world knows about her special hometown of Monroeville, which celebrated the launch of Lee's second novel, Go Set a Watchman, last year. Harper Lee's legacy will live on as we introduce Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Lee's beloved Macomb to future generations. I join Alabamians in praying for Harper Lee's family and the City of Monroeville in the difficult days ahead.