Harper Lee, the iconic author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died on Friday. The news was first reported by AL.com, an Alabama-focused news website, and later confirmed The New York Times and The Associated Press, which cited a statement from HarperCollins, Lee’s publisher, that said she died peacefully. She was 89. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 for Mockingbird, a novel that brought to life the the unwavering lawyer Atticus Finch, the story’s hero, and took a sober look at race relations in the Deep South. The novel became an instant classic in American literature, but soon after Lee retreated into solitude, rarely giving interviews and, as far as most people knew, she hadn’t written another novel as a follow-up to the smashing success of her debut work. On Friday, in New York City, The Associated Press spoke with fans who reacted to news of Lee’s death. “You can’t really talk about American literature without talking about Harper Lee,” Elise Ringo told an AP reporter. Watch the video below for more reactions.
Lee, it turned out, had penned a sequel that remained a secret for decades until a new attorney representing her, Tonja Carter, said she discovered the manuscript for a book titled Go Set A Watchman. The news of the discovery was met with controversy after it was revealed that the book would be published in 2015. But fans of Mockingbird were delighted and after Watchman was released in July of last year, it topped bestseller lists and became the most-purchased book of 2015. Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, and moved back from New York City to her hometown of Monroeville. She was wheelchair-bound and had been living in a nursing home there since returning.