Rough 'n' Tough Since Childhood: Harper Lee
by: D'Asia Lasala, Logan Kehoe, and Nick Altman



Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama (Grolier par. 1) . She is the author of the world renowned novel, To Kill a Mockingbird which has had a massive impact on the world since it was published in 1960 (Contemporary par. 1). The novel went on to win various awards and prizes and was also made into a film in 1962 (Famous 143). Harper Lee is considered one of the greatest authors of the 20th century .

Background Information on Harper Lee:

(Harper Lee was raised in Monroeville, Alabama with a fearsome reputation as a bully (Shields 13). She was referred to as a "fearsome stomach-puncher, foot-stomper, and hair puller" by her peers and didn't care what her peers thought of her (Shields 13). When she entered high school, she became fascinated with English literature and threw herself into her studies, rarely attending any social events (Shields 60). She enjoyed reading and writing rather than fashion and jewelry, and maintained a close relationship with fellow author Truman Capote throughout her college years and beyond (Shields 61). Although undergoing career troubles after the publication of her sensational bestseller To Kill A Mockingbird, Lee continued to write and enjoy her life, realizing that no follow-up novel would ever live up the unprecedented success of To Kill A Mockingbird (Shields 200, 240).

Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird:

On July 11, 1960, Harper Lee's debut novel To Kill A Mockingbird was published ("Harper Lee" paragraph 1). It instantly became a smashing bestseller, as the depth of the racial concepts expressed in the book had never been brought to light in such a way before. In 1962, To Kill A Mockingbird was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird). Lee's upbringing on Monroeville had a profound influence on her novel. Events going on during that time period were then translated into the novel. For example, during the 1930s, the Scottsboro Trials were a series of ongoing trials dealing with nine African-American teens who were accused of raping two girls on a train to Memphis (Linder paragraph 1). The Scottsboro trials were portrayed in the novel as the trials of Tom Robinson, who is an African-American accused of the same crime (SparkNotes paragraph 3).

Health and Social Connection:

Though Harper Lee is an outstanding writer, she was still affected in many was by events in her past. Growing up in the 1930s, The Great Depression, as well as “the Scottsboro case left a deep impression on the young Lee, who would use it later as the rough basis for the events in To Kill a Mockingbird” (Verma paragraph 3). Lee used her own experiences that left a mark on her, to touch other people throughout the world. Since the publishing of her book, Harper Lee has come a long way in her career. To connect with her fans “Nelle had a signing at Capitol Books in Montgomery, Alabama” (Madden 128). Seeing her fans is one way Lee leaves her own impression on anyone who meets her or reads her novel.

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Picture: "Harper Lee signing a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird at the books 50th anniversary celebration" (Bosman par. 3).

I.B. Learner Trait Connection:

Harper Lee used her natural talent to become a balanced writer and a risk-taker. Lee took many risks writing her novel because even in the 1960's, when it was released, To Kill a Mockingbird struck up a lot of controversy. Many people thought that it was unrealistic that such a young girl could know so much and talk the way that Scout did in the novel. This makes Lee a risk-taker because she decided to publish To Kill a Mockingbird even though many people were not going to like it and/or give her criticism. Harper Lee is also a balanced writer because she never leaves anything out. Her novel had just the right amount of details to get her point across, but also left a tinge of mystery to keep people reading. Overall, Lee used her I.B. Learner Traits to influence the 1960's in a special way.

Harper Lee and Truman Capote:

As a child, Truman Capote was soft, timid, and did not have a lot of friends. In fact, if it had not been for Harper Lee, he would have had no friends at all. She a "rough 'n' tough" tomboy (Authors par. 1). Tougher than many of the boys, Lee often served as Capote's defender. Capote, who shared few interests with boys his age, was picked on for being a wimp and for his fancy attire (Bio 1). While the two friends were very different, they both shared a commonality of having difficult home lives. In 1959, Lee joined forces with Truman Capote to help him with an article he was writing. Capote was writing about the murder of four members of a family on their small Kansas farming community (Bio 2). They traveled to the family's town and interviewed friends and family of the deceased and the investigators working to solve the crime. Lee helped with the interviews and eventually won over some of the locals with her easy-going, modest manner. During their time in Kansas, the suspected murderers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were caught in Las Vegas. Lee and Capote interviewed the suspects in January 1960 (Bio 2). Soon after, Lee and Capote returned to New York. Lee worked on her forthcoming first novel while Capote started working on his article, which evolved into the nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood (Bio 2).

Video Description:
This video features different authors discussing Harper
Lee's life as a child up to her life as a timeless author. It
talks about her friendship with one of her closest childhood friends, Truman Capote and it also talks about To Kill a Mockingbird and its success worldwide (Bio 1).

Works Cited:

Bosman, Julie. “Mockingbird Turns 50 with Fanfare” The Times of India. Web. 19 May 2013.
"Famous People." The New Book of Knowledge. Vol 1. Grolier Publishing Company, Inc. 2003. 143. Print.
"Harper Lee Biography." A&E Networks Television, 2013. Web. 19 May 2013.
iTunes. "To Kill A Mockingbird - Movie - iTunes." iTunes - Movies. Apple, Web. 20 May 2013.
Linder, Douglas O.. "The Trials of The Scottsboro Boys." UMKC School of Law. Version 1. UMKC, n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.
"Lee, Harper." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale, 1994. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.
"Lee, Harper." Contemporary Southern Writers. Gale, 1999. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.
"Lee, Harper." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Grolier Online. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
Madden, Kerry. Up Close: Harper Lee. New York City, New York: Penguin Group. 2009, Print.
Shields, Charles J. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. Print.
SparkNotes. "SparkNotes: To Kill a Mockingbird: Plot Overview." SparkNotes: Today's Most Popular Study Guides. Version 1. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.
Verma, Olivia. “Biography of Harper Lee”. Web. 15 April 2013.
Wikipedia. "Harper Lee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 20 May 2013.