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Harper Lee: I Won't 'Cooperate' With Any Book for the Rest of My Life

Illustration for article titled Harper Lee: I Wont Cooperate With Any Book for the Rest of My Life

America's oldest and most beloved cranky author has released a new statement reminding America that the new biography written about her life is unauthorized and unwelcome.


The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by former Chicago Tribune reporter Marja Mills comes out today, but that doesn't mean anything has changed with Nelle Harper Lee's sentiments about Mills since the author first revealed that the book was unauthorized in 2011. In a statement obtained by EW, Lee clarified yet again that this is not a book she had any intention of helping bring to the masses:

Normally, I would not respond to questions about books written on my life. Miss Mills befriended my elderly sister, Alice. It did not take long to discover Marja's true mission; another book about Harper Lee. I was hurt, angry and saddened, but not unsurprised. I immediately cut off all contact with Miss Mills, leaving town whenever she headed this way.


According to the description from Penguin, Mills is promoting the book like Lee and her sister Alice became her new best friends and that she got access to them in a way no other journalist has:

One journalist's memoir of her personal friendship with Harper Lee and her sister, drawing on the extraordinary access they gave her to share the story of their lives.

It goes on [emphasis added]:

In 2004, with the Lees' blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees' inner circle of friends.

Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.

The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills's friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.

Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees' life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.


"Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperating is a falsehood," Lee says. She may not have written anything since To Kill a Mockingbird, but her dismissal letters are a thing of beauty.

Images via Penguin Jamie Martin/AP

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Mockingbird was so good it broke my heart in about 100 different ways the first time I read it. I always wondered why there was never anything else. Is there a generally-accepted rumor I never happened across, or is it just a mystery to everyone?