Yesterday, the world of literature lost one of its giants, as Harper Lee passed away quietly in her small town of Monroeville, Alabama.
Lee is most famous for her seminal novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the most read books on the planet, and a seeming right of passage for teenagers to read at some point in high school. The novel became more than a book for so many people, and the adventures of Scout and Atticus, growing up in the small, racist town of Maycomb, has become an integral part of the American fabric. It is a novel that exposed us to injustice, and justice, and fairness, and compassion, something that too few books have been able to do for us over the course of our lives. It is impossibly memorable to the millions who have turned its pages again and again.
While Harper Lee truly only wrote the one novel (despite the recent publication of Go Set A Watchman), she managed to change the way we look not only at books, but at ourselves. To Kill A Mockingbird is a timeless classic, and it will endure for the ages.
Being semi-reclusive over her life, and never writing again made Lee more of a legend, and had us respecting her for knowing that she would not be able to top her original work, and not chase dollar signs just by slapping her name on just about anything.
For me, Mockingbird changed the way I looked at books. No longer were they just means of escape; I knew that they could be so much more. They could make me think, and push me, and make me love characters, even decades after reading it for the first time.
Harper Lee will remain an American literary icon.
Rest in peace.