Harper Lee Writes the Nicest Rejection Letter

Plus, a look at the author's legacy in the wake of her death
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2016 4:32 PM CST
Harper Lee Writes the Nicest Rejection Letter
Renowned American author Harper Lee died Friday at the age of 89.   (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird—which Today praises as "a single perfect novel that's still mandatory reading in schools more than five decades later"—passed away Friday at the age of 89. Here are six things you need to know about her life, her work, and the legacy she leaves behind:

  • Allen Breed at the AP writes about how Lee turning down his request for an interview was the "politest rejection" he ever received. "I simply don't give interviews—I gave all my publisher and the movie people asked me to give long ago (before you were born), and that was it," part of her response to him reads.
  • Meanwhile, Slate examines how the publishing of the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel Go Set a Watchman in 2015 complicated Lee's legacy by tarnishing that of the hero Atticus Finch. "It was all sad, and—here is the funny, almost unearthly, part—all utterly of a piece with Lee’s philosophy as a writer," Slate writes of the response to the followup novel.
  • ABC News profiles Lee's friendship, starting in childhood, with another great American writer, Truman Capote. "In addition to sharing a love of reading and active imaginations…they both felt left out of the rest of their worlds in different ways."
  • The Guardian has a roundup of tributes to Lee from authors, celebrities, and more. "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,” the Obama family said in a statement.
  • While Mashable rounds up the many memorable lines from To Kill a Mockingbird that still offer wisdom today. "Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of another," for example.
  • Finally, Today lets you take a look at Lee's life in photos.
(More Harper Lee stories.)

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