Since Friday, the internet has been full of articles about the life of Harper Lee. Millions of quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird were posted on Instagram and Twitter with stories about how Lee touched our lives. As a lover of books and someone born and raised in Alabama, Harper Lee was someone I could look up to.
For most of my life Lee was famous for one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which has sold more than 40 million copies since it was published in 1960. I always thought that was the most remarkable thing: that someone could write a book that meant so much to so many people that everyone wanted more. They wanted more stories from her, and this past July we got our wish.
In the flurry of articles and obituaries celebrating the life of Harper Lee, many mentioned the importance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but few mentioned the ways in which Go Set a Watchman succeeded.
Go Set A Watchman was a disappointment for a lot of people. It wasn’t a righteous story full of justice and people who did the right thing even against all odds, but to me it was just as powerful as To Kill a Mockingbird. TKAM was the story of a young girl who saw her father as infallible and righteous. GSaW is the story of an adult coming back to her hometown and all she sees are the problems. It’s a girl who realizes that her father isn’t perfect, and the the man she looked up to and hoped to be isn’t a person to aspire to be.
I’ve thought about this a lot in the wake of Lee’s death. I read so many articles calling Lee a recluse who was hiding in Monroeville, Alabama, but she wasn’t hiding. She was living how she wanted to, where she wanted to, despite what anyone else thought she should be doing, and made no apologies about it.
We have a lot to learn from Harper Lee than just the stories she wrote. I’ve loved all of Lee’s words, and I will always be grateful for what I’ve learned from her.
“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.”