Nelle Harper Lee Turns 88 This Week

Here on the NaQ blog, it looks like this week has been devoted to creative minds that have contributed to the world with their amazing works. This week, on April 28th, the famous Pulitzer Prize winning author Harper Lee – a name she prefers to her given name of Nelle – turned 88 years old.

Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the only book Lee has ever published. Lee was also honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest recognition a civilian in the US can receive, by George W. Bush. Even then, as she regularly did in the past, she refused to give an acceptance speech.

To Kill a Mockingbird was based on Lee’s experiences growing up dealing with race, inequality, and rape. It has grown into what is likely the most read book about race in the entire country. It has been required reading in schools all over the US and can be used to illuminate class, compassion, courage, gender, and much more.

We thought we’d share some of her best quotes compiled from the many words of advice she has uttered over the years.

Advice to a young boy in 2006: “As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don’t think you are the most important being on earth.”

From a work published in Vogue in the early 1960s: “Man’s capacity to love is measured by his degree of freedom from the drives that turn inward upon him. As one holds down a cork to the bottom of a stream, so may love be imprisoned by self: remove self, and love rises to the surface of man’s being.”

On her perception of reading books: “Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.”

Lastly, a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

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