A lot of authors use pseudonyms — heck, even J.K. Rowling sometimes moonlights as Robert Galbraith — but why did Harper Lee write under the name Harper, and not her real name? The To Kill a Mockingbird author was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama with the full name Nelle Harper Lee.
If you see any close friends or family speaking about Harper Lee, who sadly passed away Friday at age 89, you will always hear them refer to her as her first name, Nelle, and never Harper. In fact, there's a story behind why she was named Nelle in the first place: The name is her grandmother's first name, Ellen, spelled backward. However, when she published her iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird back in 1960, she used the name Harper Lee on the book cover.
Lee always shied away from the spotlight — even during the controversial publication of her second novel Go Set a Watchman — never opening up about her book, writing process, or characters, so he first book-length biography of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields illuminates some of these questions. And Shields finds out why the author chose Harper rather than Nelle as her publishing name.
And, knowing the wise-cracking, witty, and super smart Lee? Well, it's just in line with who she is.
Lee didn't want to have to continually hear her first name "Nelle" mispronounced as "Nellie."
And that is just another reason why Harper Lee was so incredible and why she will be dearly missed by the literary community and readers everywhere.