WTF Fun Fact 13475 – The Harper Lee Christmas Gift Story

We’re lucky enough to have the book To Kill a Mockingbird in part because of a Harper Lee Christmas gift. Lee had left law school early and was struggling to finish her book in NYC. That is, until a couple gave her the gift of time.

The Working Woman

In 1949, Lee worked as an airline reservation agent in New York City for Eastern Air Lines and British Overseas Airways. But the Alabama native had her sights set on a writing career. The problem was that the demands of her job left little room for her to dive into her passion. Writing a book takes stretches of uninterrupted time. That’s not easy for a working person (no matter what those online courses tell you about writing a book in 60 days!).

Lee managed to start on a manuscript that turned into a short story. But she struggled to find the uninterrupted hours needed to shape and refine her work into a novel. She needed a break, a window of opportunity that could help her fulfill her literary dreams. That break arrived on a memorable Christmas Day in 1956.

An Iconic Christmas Gift

Now, they say you can’t give the gift of time – but technically, you can. Apparently, you just need to have the right friends.

That year, Lee’s friends, Broadway composer Michael Brown and his wife, Joy, gave her an extraordinary present. Instead of something tangible or ornamental, they offered Lee the gift of free time. They handed her a year’s wages, accompanying this gift with a single mandate: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

I know what I’m adding to my holiday list this year!!

Emboldened by her friends’ generosity, Lee quit her job and devoted herself to her craft. The manuscript gradually transformed over that year, morphing into the remarkable novel we now recognize.To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. It soon captured the hearts of critics and readers alike, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.

The Legacy of the Harper Lee Christmas Gift

Today, To Kill a Mockingbird graces the shelves of readers around the world and continues to be a critical part of educational curriculums. Translated into over 40 languages, the novel’s tale of racial injustice and lost innocence in a small Southern town resonates with millions.

The Christmas gift that ignited the creation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ represents more than financial aid. It embodies the impact of unwavering faith in a friend’s talent and potential. This story serves as a reminder of the transformative power that can stem from supporting someone’s dreams.

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Source: “How a thoughtful Christmas present helped Harper Lee write ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” — Business Insider


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