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10 powerful Harper Lee quotes

Here’s a roundup of the late author’s (rare) statements in life, and on the page.
By Lindsay Friedman |

At age 89, esteemed novelist Harper Lee has died. The news was confirmed by the mayor's office in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.


Lee’s death comes shortly after the release of her second book this past summer, Go Set A Watchmen. The book provided another in-depth look into the lives of beloved characters from her first best seller, To Kill A Mockingbird. Both novels sparked intense interest and debate across the country.



The novelist was famous for refusing interviews and appearances for the majority of her life. Lee very seldom spoke publicly, giving only one in-depth interview in the 1960s.


Related: 5 Inspirational, and Biting, Quotes From Antonin Scalia

Here’s a roundup of the author’s (rare) statements in life, and on the page:


1. “It's better to be silent than to be a fool.”

– Alabama Academy of Honor "speech," 2007


2. “Some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.”

– In a letter to Oprah Winfrey, 2006


3. “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

– In "To Kill A Mockingbird"


4. Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

– In "To Kill A Mockingbird"


5. “Naturally, you don't sit down in 'white hot inspiration' and write with a burning flame in front of you. But since I knew I could never be happy being anything but a writer, and Mockingbird put itself together for me so accommodatingly, I kept at it because I knew it had to be my first novel, for better or for worse.”


– In an interview with Roy Newquist, Counterpoints, 1964


6. “All I want to be is the Jane Austen of south Alabama.”

– In an interview at the WQXR radio station in New York


7. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

– In "To Kill A Mockingbird"


8. “The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”

– In "To Kill A Mockingbird"


9. “You see, more than a simple matter of putting down words, writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer.”

– In an interview with Roy Newquist, Counterpoints, 1964


10. “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”

– In "To Kill A Mockingbird"

Related: 23 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By



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This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editors. 



Photo from Rebecca Tuthill / Youtube

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