Up Close: Harper Lee
When her reply came, it was short and succinct. She did not believe in biographies for those still living. She wrote, “I may be old but I’m still breathing." She closed the note wishing me the best whether I pursued the project or not. It was disappointing but certainly not unexpected. She hasn’t granted an interview to discuss her work since 1964 and even turned down Oprah. I thanked her and decided to continue with the book anyway. Harper Lee’s was a story I longed to write.
I grew up in football towns across the South and Midwest. My father was a college coach in search of the opportunity to win, so we picked up and moved often. Alabama football legend, Bear Bryant, was one of our family’s patron saints. With each move to a new football town, I searched for a sense of home, and I found it in books. One of my most cherished books was To Kill a Mockingbird. The first time I saw the film was on the big screen at the Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. Each time I reread the book or showed my own children the film, I found home all over again. I could roam the streets of Harper Lee’s “Maycomb" and hear the voices of Jem and Scout and Dill calling to each other. I had a cousin just like sniveling cousin Francis. I beat up a boy like Cecil Jacobs.