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A Biography of Harper Lee, Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' In his introduction to the first book-length biography of Harper Lee,

the elusive author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Charles J. Shields tells the reader way too much about his research methods. He was determined to write this book even though Ms. Lee, who has been known to reply "Not just no, but hell no" to requests for interviews, wouldn't give him the time of day. So Mr. Shields had to be resourceful. He used the Internet to take the art of the cyberclip-job to bold new heights. Harper Lee Mr. Shields, a former English teacher, says he "occasionally relied on unorthodox methods that were surprisingly effective." Translation: he faked his way onto an online school reunion site to contact Ms. Lee's classmates. He obtained a large amount of contact information for University of Alabama alumni and mass-mailed 300 in a single day. He let Google do the walking when it came to library research. And he emailed himself a hundred newspaper articles, courtesy of the online database of the University of Virginia. He then went on to do actual legwork. But "Mockingbird" begins on a facile, slightly desperate note. "It started to snow in the Northeast at about dawn on March 3, 1960," Mr. Shields begins. How does he know? In the back of the book is the source for this observation: a Wall Street Journal article headlined "Severe Snowstorm Hits East, Stalls Traffic, Shuts Schools; Many Firms Close Early." Although Mr. Shields pads his book with similar minutiae (in 1949 there were 630,000 manholes in New York City), he also prompts some sympathy. After all, as his bibliography reveals, he had precious little else to go on. All he drew on were histories of the South, critical "Mockingbird" studies and material about Truman Capote, whose friendship with Ms. Lee was as catty as it was intense. "I think it very undignified for any serious artist to allow themselves to be exploited in this fashion," Capote sniffed. He said he was appalled by the crass spectacle of Ms. Lee helping to promote the Oscarwinning film version of her instant-classic novel. But she seems to have agreed with him. Unmanageable success made her determined to vanish, which is one more reason Mr. Shields has set himself a tough job. It is all he can do to come up with answers to the three most frequently asked questions about Ms. Lee: Is she dead? Is she gay? What ever happened to Book No. 2? No, none of your business and none of your business: those are the best answers at which "Mockingbird" arrives. But it fares better at filling in the basic details of Ms. Lee's life, from the reason Nelle Harper Lee didn't use her first name in print (she didn't want "Nelle" pronounced as "Nellie") to the genesis of her novel and its characters. Even though he never gets close to the flinty Ms. Lee, Mr. Shields constructs a worthwhile portrait of the artist. Monroeville, Ala., where Ms. Lee and Mr. Capote grew up as neighbors and playmates, is credibly evoked, even if one of Mr. Shields's best sources is Ms. Lee's father's caddy. The book gives a sense of

the tomboy Ms. Lee, a k a Miss Frippy Britches, growing up watchfully in a town full of people who would later populate her fiction. And since her father, A. C. Lee, was a lawyer, newspaper editor and politician, Mr. Shields is able to trace the way some of his more hidebound opinions ("Get off the 'social justice' and get back on the Gospel," he once said) gave way to the crusading morality that would make Atticus Finch, his fictional alter ego, a character for the ages. "Mockingbird" dwells on Ms. Lee's college years, no doubt because Mr. Shields tracked down so many classmates. All attest to her reluctance to behave like a demure Southern belle. "In the purely feminine aquifer of sorority life, she floated like a drop of motor oil," Mr. Shields writes. The book then observes her first literary efforts ("May I thit here?" she wrote, caricaturing her friend Truman) and follows her to New York, where the anecdotal manuscript originally called "Atticus" came together over a long period. During that period she also accompanied Capote to Kansas and provided immeasurable help in the researching of his nonfiction breakthrough, "In Cold Blood." When her notes described the misshapen face of the killer Richard Hickock as looking "as if someone cut it down the middle, then put it back together not quite in place," Capote recycled with a minimum of embellishment: "It was as though his head had been halved like an apple, then put together a fraction off center." Yet Capote's condescension remained intact. ("I got Harper interested in writing because she typed my manuscript on my typewriter," he told The Washington Post. "It was a nice gesture for her, and highly convenient for me.") Meanwhile, Ms. Lee wound up in the midst of movie people as they descended on Monroeville, in some of the most well-documented episodes here. From the agent who countered Ms. Lee's desire to have Spencer Tracy play Atticus by instead recommending Robert Wagner, to the notes by Gregory Peck (who won an Oscar), insisting that his character dominate the story, the book captures a sharp sense of what Hollywood does to writers. It also casts some light on why Ms. Lee didn't want to endure this ever again. Her own words are clearer than anyone else's, as in this exchange from a 1962 news conference: "Will success spoil Harper Lee?" "She's too old." "How do you feel about your second novel?" "I'm scared." And Mr. Shields piles up evidence that her fear was real. After a decade had gone by, and no second book emerged (at one point Ms. Lee's sister claimed that a burglar had stolen the long-awaited manuscript), Ms. Lee seems to have faced up to reality and stopped pushing herself. "When you're at the top, there's only one way to go," she once said to a cousin. "I said what I had to say," she told a bookseller in 2000. "Mockingbird" concludes with glimpses into how Monroeville bands together to protect Ms. Lee's privacy. Mr. Shields may know where Ms. Lee goes to eat catfish and hush puppies on Saturdays, but

that hasn't brought him into her good graces. Instead, it has given him, and will give his readers, new respect for her dignity. Diterbitkan tahun 1961 setelah ditulis selama 2,5 tahun To Kill A Mocking Bird adalah novel pertama dan satu-satunya novel yang ditulis Harper Lee. Novel itu langsung mengundang reaksi masyarakat karena pada tahun itu kekerasan rasial yang dilakukan Ku Klux Klan mencapai masa puncak. Keberanian Lee mengungkap dan menyatakan sikap menciptakan banyak tekanan bagi dirinya. Terlepas dari itu, begitu terbit To Kill a Mocking Bird langsung menjadi best seller. Terjual 2,5 juta kopi dan 14 kali cetak ulang di tahun pertama. Novel tersebut juga memenangi penghargaan Pulitizer Prize Winning For Fiction 1961. Selain itu Novel ini masuk Guinness Book of World Record sebagai novel Terlaris Sepanjang Masa karena berhasil terjual lebih dari 30 juta kopi di seluruh dunia. Bahkan, novel yang menceritakan tentang kasih sayang dan prasangka ini membawa penulisnya Harper Lee mendapatkan Anugerah Presidential Medal of Freedom 2007 the Highest Civilian Honor USA. Sebuah buku dengan tema yang umum karena cerita seperti ini sudah banyak diceritakan, tapi menjadi unik ketika sang narator adalah seorang gadis kecil warga Maycomb, Alabama, novel ini akan menunjukkan bahwa sebuah prasangka sering kali membutakan manusia. Dan sebuah keadilan hanya dapat dilahirkan dari rasa cinta yang tak membedakan apa pun latar belakang seseorang. Harper Lee telah berhasil menyuguhkan sebuah novel menawan yang amat berkesan dan tak lekang oleh zaman. Dengan latar belakang negara Amerika sekitar tahun 1932an yang masih kental dengan perbudakan, dimana orang kulit hitam sebagai ras terbawah dan orang kulit putih sebagai penguasa negara. Cerita yang mengalurkan sebuah perjuangan seorang pengacara membela seorang budak kulit hitam yang dituduh memperkosa seorang gadis kulit putih. Cerita : Kehidupan Scout dan Jem Finch berubah total saat ayah mereka menjadi pembela seorang kulit hitam. Ketika Atticus membela seorang yang dianggap sampah masyarakat, kecaman pun datang dari seluruh penjuru kota. Atticus ditugaskan untuk membela seorang berkulit hitam bernama Tom Robinson, yang dituduh memperkosa Mayella Ewell, seorang wanita muda berkulit putih. Meskipun banyak penduduk Maycomb yang tidak setuju, Atticus setuju untuk membela Tom Robinson. Anak-anak lain mengejek Jem dan Scout dengan akibat tindakan ayahnya dengan sebutan Pecinta negro . Scout terpengaruh akan hal itu, dan sering berkelahi atas nama kehormatan ayahnya. Attycus sendiri harus menghadapi sekumpulan orang yang berniat untuk membunuh Tom Robinson. Di tengah terpaan masalah yang menimpa keluarganya, si kecil Scout belajar bahwa kehidupan tidak melulu hitam dan putih. Pada tahun 1962, buku ini diadaptasi menjadi film dengan judul yang sama dengan arahan sutradara Robert Mulligan, dan berhasil mendapatkan piala Oscar. Sejak tahun 1990, drama yang didasarkan pada cerita buku ini dimainkan secara rutin di Monroeville, Alabama, kampung halaman sang penulis, Harper Lee. Arti dari To Kill a Mocking Bird sendiri adalah perumpamaan Atticus yang berarti membunuh sesuatu yang sebenarnya tidak mengganggu kita.

Sumber: http://id.shvoong.com/books/novel-novella/2172359-kill-mocking-bird/#ixzz1flKNE0zI