A Sequel, Five Decades Later


Harper Lee is set to publish a sequel to her Pulitzer-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s only novel has sold more than 30 million copies and earns almost $4 million a year. Lee’s poor health, combined with more than five decades of literary silence, leads Modern Notion to question the motivation to suddenly publish a followup:

Some fans are confused about the timing of the book and wonder whether Lee was pressured into the decision. Lee was famously involved in a 2013 lawsuit alleging that her agent committed elder abuse, taking advantage of her age and withholding royalties from her famous novel. She fought tooth and nail against the publication of The Mockingbird Next Door, a book written by a journalist who befriended Lee, then wrote a memoir about her without her approval. The recent death of Lee’s beloved sister Alice, the bulldog lawyer who helped guard her privacy, has been cited by some as a possible reason for the timing of today’s announcement. And Lee’s physical condition (she is “profoundly deaf,” nearly completely blind, and wheelchair-bound) is raising questions about who is making her decisions—and why.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →