Harper Lee and Her Supposed Death
Writer Harper Lee has been a near-reclusive figure since the publication of her famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. Much like J.D. Salinger, another writer who published an instant classic and then fell silent, rumors of her death have been rife across the Internet for years. As of 2015, Lee, who was born in 1926, was living in an assisted-living facility in Alabama. Details of her physical and mental health have been sketchy and inconsistent, especially with the publication of Go Set a Watchman, an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Shortly after the 1960 publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee stopped giving interviews and appearing in public. In 2011, she told an interviewer that she never wanted to experience the pressure and publicity that accompanied the Mockingbird publication and that she had “said what I wanted to say.” In 2007, President George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2010 President Obama gave her the National Medal of Arts. Both of these events raised her public profile, but did not end her written silence.
For many years, Lee’s sister served as a buffer between the writer and the outside world, declaring that the writer was near deaf and blind and of dubious mental state. After her sister’s death in late 2014, publication of Go Set a Watchman proceeded. The state of Alabama found no evidence of elder abuse, and Lee’s lawyer reports that the author is happy with the publication, and very much alive.