Acclaimed author Harper Lee is dead at 89, reports the Guardian this morning. Lee spent the last few years in a nursing home less than a mile from her childhood home in Monroeville, Alabama, which served as the inspiration for the fictional city of Maycomb, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird. In the 50 years since Mockingbird, Lee has published only one other novel, the controversial Go Set a Watchman, which some fans claim is simply an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the most influential novels of the 20th century and a defining piece of American literature. Released during the height of racial tensions in the United States, the novel highlighted the injustice that many black Americans faced during the era. Mockingbird was published in 1960, and by 1962, it was adapted into a wildly successful motion picture starring Gregory Peck. Harper Lee was an instant celebrity, a role she never felt comfortable with. She found fame to be oppressive and withdrew from the spotlight, publishing only a handful of articles over the course of her career.