Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has died. She was 89. Al.com reports that she passed in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. The cause of death has not yet been reported.
Lee, born on April 28th, 1926, is widely considered to be one of the most important American novelists of the 20th century. Her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird enjoys a beloved place in grade school curricula across the country for its appraisal of race, racism, and life in the deep South. She won the Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1961.
Her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, saw release last year though not without controversy. The book, set 20 years after the events of Mockingbird, was reportedly written first but lost. Lee's lawyer Tonja Carter discovered the original manuscript and encouraged Lee to release it to the public, creating concern that Lee, who suffered a stroke in 2007, was being manipulated into publishing it. The book broke records when it hit bookshelves, but the reception was cool compared to its forebear, especially since it transforms Atticus Finch, a hero in American fiction, into a bigot. The New York Times wrote that the book "lacks the lyricism of Mockingbird" but has a sense of empathy that readers would recognize.