Harper Lee, author of the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” has written a rare published item — a letter for Oprah Winfrey’s magazine on how she became a reader as a child in a rural, Depression-era Alabama town.
The 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner quit giving interviews about 40 years ago and, other than a 1983 review of an Alabama history book, has published nothing of significance in some four decades. That makes her article for O, The Oprah Magazine, something of a literary coup for the television talk show celebrity.
In a letter for the magazine’s July “special summer reading issue,” Lee tells of becoming a reader before first grade: She was read to by her older sisters and brother, a story a day by her mother, newspaper articles by her father. “Then, of course, it was Uncle Wiggly at bedtime.”
She also writes about the scarcity of books in the 1930s in Monroeville, where she grew up and where she lives part of each year. That deficit, combined with a lack of anything else to do — no movies for kids, no parks for games — made books especially treasured, she writes.
“Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books,” she writes.