Harper Lee Denies She Authorized New Memoir By Former Chicago Tribune Reporter

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, spoke up this week to say she did not authorize the memoir The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee. And this isn’t the first time.

The memoir was written by former Chicago Tribune reporter Marja Mills and was published this week. It describes Mills’ time in Alabama, where she lived next door to Nelle Harper Lee and her sister Alice Lee, both of whom she befriended. Though, Harper Lee remembers differently.

“Normally, I would not respond to questions about books written on my life,” Harper Lee, 88, said in a letter, according to ArtBeat of The New York Times. “Miss Mills befriended my elderly sister, Alice. It did not take long to discover Marja’s true mission; another book about Harper Lee. I was hurt, angry and saddened, but not surprised. I immediately cut off all contact with Miss Mills, leaving town whenever she headed this way.”

But, this isn’t the first time Harper Lee denied her involvement.

Penguin Press announced back in 2011 they had acquired the memoir by Mills. Harper Lee apparently wasted no time calling up her lawyer and having a statement released, saying she had not “participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills,” at least not willingly. So, she certainly wouldn’t have authorized any memoir.

“Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood,” she said.

Marja Mills begs to differ, however, and said, according to BBC, the Lee sisters gave her their blessing. Mills met the sisters while on an assignment for The Chicago Tribune and even moved in next door to them in 2004.

“Nelle Harper Lee and Alice F Lee were aware I was writing this book,” Marja Mills said in a statement. “The stories they shared with me that I recount in the book speak for themselves.”

Penguin Press backed up its author in a statement and said it was proud to publish the memoir, which it called a “labor of love.”

“Marja Mills has done an extraordinary job,” Penguin Press said in the statement. “We look forward to sharing her story of the wise and wonderful Lee sisters with readers.”

Who’s being dishonest, or forgetful, in this dispute is not obvious. Both parties have their arguments, however.

Mills included in her statement a letter from Harper Lee’s sister. Alice Lee said Harper Lee, who suffered a stroke in 2007, did not write her own statement but only signed it.

“Poor Nelle Harper can’t see and hear,” Alice Lee said, “and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence. Now she has no memory of the incident.”

Harper Lee perhaps tried to dismiss the letter by remarking that her sister was 100 years old when she wrote the letter — maybe to imply her mind wasn’t all there. Though, Mills said in her statement Alice Lee practiced law until she was 100.

Last month, Harper Lee finally settled a legal action against a museum in her hometown Monroeville, which she accused of making money off her name.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published first in 1960, and is Harper Lee’s only published novel. The book was later made into the Oscar-winning film adaption.

[Photo by Eric Draper : White House Photo]