Long Island is the place to retreat after Harper Lee publishes To Kill a Mockingbird

Author Harper Lee is a private figure, a target of critics, journalists, and curious minds. Seeking solace, she summers in the idyllic Long Island village of Saltaire, a roadless beach town where the only vehicles allowed are grocery vans, bicycles and little red vans.

In that haven, Hugh O’Brien fire island news, “What we value most is the serenity, the more leisurely pace and respite from the ‘real world’ that Saltaire provides.”

After publishing her acclaimed novel in 1960, Lee cherished the tranquility after being engulfed by real-world publicity, to kill a robina landmark story about racial inequality and civil rights.

Today, 62 years later, this book is sUntil Loved — and Hated: It continues to appear on lists of banned or questioned books as the nation grapples with the thorny issues of racism and censorship.

“Shared Pain”

Maybe it’s Lee’s upbringing in the rural South that makes the attention so unbearable — and the sleepy little village on Fire Island so appealing. Born Nelle Harper Lee in 1926, she grew up in remote Monroeville, Alabama, a place far different from bustling New York City. As she later said in an interview with WQXR radio, “I wanted to be a chronicle of what I thought was going to go down the drain very quickly. That was small-town, middle-class southern life. There’s some general stuff here. “

A constant in childhood was her friendship with Truman Capote, who lived in Monroeville before becoming a world-renowned author. They both love to read and write stories on the typewriter that Lee’s father bought for them. Li’s father read a lot; he taught his precocious tomboy daughter to read and gave her books.

But while the children found respite in words, their family life was difficult: they were united by “shared pain,” as Lee later put it. According to Biography.com, Capote’s mother abandoned him in search of financial security, while Lee’s mother suffers from what is now called bipolar disorder. Even after Capote and his family moved to New York in 1933, the two childhood friends remained close.

After high school, Lee studied law at the University of Alabama, but dropped out in 1949 without earning a law degree. She moved to Manhattan and worked for eight years as an airline reservations officer by day and writing articles and stories by night. Like other struggling writers, she would shake the parking meter, hoping to pick up a falling coin.

key life events

Her social life is busy thanks to introductions from Capote, who includes Michael and Joy Brown. In December 1956, the Browns gave her a generous Christmas present: enough money to quit her job and take a year off to write. Editors saw hope in her novel in 1957 go set watcher, but persuaded her to focus on the heroine’s childhood.After two years of frustration, she even threw the manuscript out the window into the snow, biographer Charles J. Shields reported – To Kill a Mockingbird published.

That same year, 1960, when four African-American college students held their first lunch-counter sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, Lee’s novel, reflecting the turmoil brewing in race and civil rights, was a success: Winning a Pulitzer Prize The novel has been translated into more than 40 languages, was voted the best novel of the century by librarians, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the author; the 1962 film version has won numerous Oscars.

summer in satel

However, she was overwhelmed by the publicity the book caused, writing New York Times: “Lee retreated from fame, avoiding all public exposure.” Some locals remember her coming to Saltaire in 1964, others say 1965, living with the Browns in their cottage or at the lighthouse In the rental house on the southeast corner of the road and West Pedestrian Street, engaged in different pastimes at the same time: fishing.

Others on the dock shared their flashes with her as bait. She learned how to clean snapper without a knife, and not squeamish. On Saltaire38.blogspot.com, Jim O’Hare describes Lee: “She was a small, unassuming lady. Bamboo poles, hooks, lines and floats, kegs.”

“She was very soft-spoken and very friendly,” wrote Merry Weatherall, who was working at the Saltaire Sweet Shoppe when Lee came in for breakfast one Sunday morning.

Some bloggers wrote that Al Skinner, the captain at the helm of the Fire Islander ferry, called Lee “the heart of Dixie” because she was Alabama. O’Hare wrote that she was famous, but only socialized with the little kids with whom she was fishing for snapper.

hidden history

In 1966, a school board in Richmond, Virginia tried to ban To kill a robin, Calling it “immoral literature,” it was the first of many institutions to remove the book from its must-read list because it contained racial slurs and centered on the alleged rape of a black man in Alabama in the 1930s . Lee responded in a letter: “Hearing that the novel was ‘immoral’, I couldn’t help but count the years between now and 1984, because I haven’t come across a better example of double thinking. “

Lee died on February 19, 2016 in Monroeville at the age of 89.

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