It was as if Scout herself had died.
Of course, everyone knows that
For five decades, if you sought out biographical details, you might have known this: Lee lived quietly in New York before eventually returning to Alabama; she was a Mets fan; for a time, she struggled with alcohol; she settled in Monroeville under the protective wing of her older sister, Alice, who like their father was a lawyer; in Harper's later years, her new attorney and Alice differed strongly and publicly about Harper's competency; and then there was the 2015 novel "Go Set A Watchman," discovered among Lee's archives, which became a bestseller, as any follow-up to "To Kill a Mockingbird" would have done.
During all those years, Harper Lee could have been famous; she could have appeared on talk shows and gone to fancy parties like her friend
Despite being published in 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" remains painfully relevant. It is widely assigned in schools because of its direct engagement with racism as seen through the eyes of a young girl. That a story set in 1936 and published before the Civil Rights Act was passed has resonance today is a sad lesson in how little America has been able to deal with race and racism.
And even if it is still banned — this year, schools in Virginia took it off shelves after a parent's complaint — "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a book we can expect just about everyone to have read.
It is perhaps our last shared story, the last book we all read together as a nation.