Tuesday, March 30, 2010

harper lee

On January 30, 2006, the New York Times published an article "Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day" by Ginia Bellafonte about a yearly awards ceremony at the president's mansion at the University of Alabama for a high school essay contest on the subject of "To Kill A Mockingbird.". The 50 or so winners of the contest and their families and teachers get to meet and eat lunch with Ms. Lee herself. The literary luncheon is a serendipity of sorts because Lee, who seldom speaks to the press or makes public appearances, signs copies of her novel and provides photo opportunities for the guests, though she politely refuses to speak about her writing.

Monroeville, AL, is a quintessential small, Southern town with a population of around 7000. This is the town into which Harper Lee was born and in which she still resides. She lives with her 90 something year old sister, who is one of the most sought after attorneys in the region. You can often find them puttering around the First United Methodist Church, where they are lifelong members. They maintain an apartment in New York City, the place where Lee journeyed to write "To Kill A Mockingbird", but spend most of their time in their home town.

According to one study from the 1990's, "To Kill A Mockingbird" is behind only the Bible as the book that has made a difference in Americans' lives. It has sold over 10,000,000 copies worldwide. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, was made into an Oscar nominated movie in 1962 (Gregory Peck won the Oscar for best actor and Horton Foote won for best adapted screenplay), and there are people who give their lives traveling from place to place acting the part of Atticus Finch. I am even friends with Atticus Finch on Facebook!

With all of the critical and commercial success that came to her, why did Harper Lee write only one novel? I wonder. I think that's what makes her a 'Juniper' so I humbly nominate her as an honorary member of our group :-). Perhaps she was able to say all that she hoped to say to the world through the eyes and heart of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. What do we hope to say to the world and how are we saying it? Are we writing it, painting it, sculpting it, being it and/or doing it? Thank you Nelle Harper Lee for showing us a way!

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