Harper Lee is renowned in the literary world for her Pulitzer-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird.
The highly-acclaimed novel deals with themes of innocence, race, and injustice. Set in America during The Great Depression, the narrative tells of a racially-charged criminal trial in a sleepy Southern town through the eyes of a group of children.The novel has captivated millions of readers since its publication in 1960 and still continues to do so.
To Kill A Mockingbird is Lee’s only novel, and might never have been written had it not been for a generous Christmas donation she received from friends in the 1950s.
In 1956 Lee moved to New York, where she worked as a ticket agent for British Overseas Airways Corporation while struggling to write essays and short stories about life in her small hometown. Sustaining herself financially while pursuing her dreams of being a successful writer was hard for Lee, as for any other young person. In one occasion, she complained about her issue to some friends in New York City.
Those kind people were Michael and Joy Brown, who happened to know Truman Capote, a childhood friend of Lee. Michael Brown worked as an “industrial musical writer,” which has nothing to do with the modern genre of industrial music. Companies like DuPont or JC Penney hired him to write inspirational, uplifting musical performances for their workers – a job that earned him a lot of money.
During Christmas in 1956, the Browns decided to surprise Harper with the most amazing gift a young writer could receive – a whole year worth of support so that she could focus her attention on writing and stop worrying about paying bills.
In a 1961 interview for McCall’s magazine Lee wrote:
“There was an envelope on the tree, addressed to me. I opened it and read: ‘You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.’ They assured me that it was not some sort of joke.. They’d had a good year, they said. They’d saved some money and thought it was high time they did something about me.”
Harper Lee used the opportunity that was given to her wisely, and after spreading the year into two years, she finally made it. She wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird,” which instantly became a bestseller and since 1960 has sold over 30 million copies all over the world.
This book takes an important place in the reading experiences of people around the world, and besides Harper Lee, we have to thank the Brown’s for their valuable contribution to the world literature. Let their memories live on forever.