Mockingbird Songs
An indelible portrait of one of the most famous and beloved authors in the canon of American literature—a collection of letters between Harper Lee and one of her closest friends that reveals the famously private writer as never before, in her own words.The violent racism of the American South drove Wayne Flynt away from his home state of Alabama, but the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic novel about courage, community, and equality, inspired him to return in the early 1960s and craft a career documenting and teaching Alabama history. His writing resonated with many Alabamians, in particular three sisters: Louise, Alice, and Nelle Harper Lee. Beginning with their first meeting in 1983, a mutual respect and affection for the state’s history and literature matured into a deep friendship between two families who can trace their roots there back more than five generations.Flynt and Nelle Harper Lee began writing to one other while she was living in New York—heartfelt, insightful, and humorous letters in which they swapped stories, information, and opinions on topics both personal and professional: their families, books, Alabama history and social values, health concerns, and even their fears and accomplishments. Though their earliest missives began formally—"Dear Dr. Flynt"—as the years passed and their mutual admiration grew, their exchanges became more intimate and emotional, opening with "Dear Friend" and closing with "I love you, Nelle." Through their enduring correspondence, the Lees and the Flynts became completely immersed in each other’s lives.Beautifully written, intelligent, and telling, this remarkable compendium of their letters—a correspondence that lasted for a quarter century, from 1992 until Harper Lee’s death in February 2016—offers an incisive and compelling look into the mind, heart, and work of one of the most beloved authors in modern literary history.

Mockingbird Songs Details

TitleMockingbird Songs
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseMay 2nd, 2017
PublisherHarper
ISBN006266008X
ISBN-139780062660084
Number of pages240 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, History

Mockingbird Songs Review

  • Diane Barnes
    May 21, 2017
    I picked this up at the library, but was sceptical. I thought it might be someone else trying to cash in on Harper Lee's life and death. I was very wrong. This collection of letters is presented by a respected author and professor of history who enjoyed a 25 year correspondence with Lee and her sisters, Louise and Alice. He and his wife were friends first with her older, married sister, Louise, then later met Nelle and became close to her as well.These letters respect the privacy that she valued I picked this up at the library, but was sceptical. I thought it might be someone else trying to cash in on Harper Lee's life and death. I was very wrong. This collection of letters is presented by a respected author and professor of history who enjoyed a 25 year correspondence with Lee and her sisters, Louise and Alice. He and his wife were friends first with her older, married sister, Louise, then later met Nelle and became close to her as well.These letters respect the privacy that she valued so much, and only re-inforce what we already know, but in her own words. What a funny, sensitive, sharp lady she was. I enjoyed these letters very much, and learned more about her family and the town of Monroeville. The author begins each chapter with an overview of what was going on in his and in Nelle's life at the time the letters were exchanged. This was a nice addition to my understanding of this reclusive author.
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  • Lawyer
    May 29, 2017
    Mockingbird Songs: Morning Has BrokenIt does not surprise me that Alabama Historian Wayne Flynt would be among Belle Harper Lee's circle of friends. Flynt is the author of Poor but Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites and Alabama in the Twentieth Century. He is especially known for documenting life in Alabama during the Great Depression which happens to be the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.Flynt's entry to the Lee family did not begin with the beloved author, but her sister Louise Connor, who lived i Mockingbird Songs: Morning Has BrokenIt does not surprise me that Alabama Historian Wayne Flynt would be among Belle Harper Lee's circle of friends. Flynt is the author of Poor but Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites and Alabama in the Twentieth Century. He is especially known for documenting life in Alabama during the Great Depression which happens to be the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.Flynt's entry to the Lee family did not begin with the beloved author, but her sister Louise Connor, who lived in Eufaula, Alabama.More to follow...
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  • Ticklish Owl
    May 10, 2017
    If you could have dinner with any historical figure who would it be? For me it's Ms Lee. She could talk (or not) about anything at all, and I would be captivated. Mockingbird Songs is probably as close as I will ever get to fulfilling that daydream.Ms Lee's attorney approved the publication of the letters in Mockingbird Songs, and I sincerely hope Ms Lee would have as well. Mockingbird Songs doesn't try to aggrandize itself, unlike The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee (my review). The If you could have dinner with any historical figure who would it be? For me it's Ms Lee. She could talk (or not) about anything at all, and I would be captivated. Mockingbird Songs is probably as close as I will ever get to fulfilling that daydream.Ms Lee's attorney approved the publication of the letters in Mockingbird Songs, and I sincerely hope Ms Lee would have as well. Mockingbird Songs doesn't try to aggrandize itself, unlike The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee (my review). The letters between Wayne Flynt, Alice Lee, and Nelle Harper Lee are mostly about little everyday things, and as time passes, they radiate genuine affection and friendship. If you liked this book, you might also enjoy:✱ The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder✱ The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor✱ Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty
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  • Patricia L
    May 5, 2017
    Loved, loved, loved it! To start, I must admit that "To Kill A Mockingbird" and Ms. Lee have a special place in my soul. Thus, I was biased going into the read. Through a sharing of letters written between the author, Harper Lee and her sisters, the author helps the reader gain a lovely picture of the a bit more of the person who was Harper (Nell) Lee. It finishes with the author's eulogy to Lee via a description of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and its' place in the lives of so many. My only unhappin Loved, loved, loved it! To start, I must admit that "To Kill A Mockingbird" and Ms. Lee have a special place in my soul. Thus, I was biased going into the read. Through a sharing of letters written between the author, Harper Lee and her sisters, the author helps the reader gain a lovely picture of the a bit more of the person who was Harper (Nell) Lee. It finishes with the author's eulogy to Lee via a description of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and its' place in the lives of so many. My only unhappiness is that the book ended too soon. I have always considered Ms. Lee a special friend and hated to say "good-bye" to someone who I now know at least a little better. (I might add that I began by listening to the audio-version and, then, read the print version. Hearing the exchange added a great deal.)
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  • Julie H.
    April 28, 2017
    At first blush Wayne Flynt's Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee is a lovely--albeit seemingly random--assemblage of select letters written between an incredibly private Southern writer (Lee) and a respected retired professor of Southern history (Flynt). The letters span the years 1992-2016, are a bit of a hodgepodge, and while the author claims the publication's goal is to allow Lee to tell her own side of things in a minimally invasive albeit posthumous fashion, that claim rings a At first blush Wayne Flynt's Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee is a lovely--albeit seemingly random--assemblage of select letters written between an incredibly private Southern writer (Lee) and a respected retired professor of Southern history (Flynt). The letters span the years 1992-2016, are a bit of a hodgepodge, and while the author claims the publication's goal is to allow Lee to tell her own side of things in a minimally invasive albeit posthumous fashion, that claim rings a little hollow in retrospect.I don't mean to imply that Flynt took advantage of Lee in any way, just that it often felt a bit "off." He explains that Nelle's (Harper was her middle name, and the family all called her Nelle) attorney approved publication of her letters, but it's really tough to get beyond the irony of honoring an intensely private person by publishing selections from their late-in-life personal correspondence.Flynt is careful to distinguish Lee's opinion from his own, on those rare occasions when he understood a particular circumstance differently than she did. He is also careful to reserve judgment on her recently rediscovered (and published) manuscript. That second fact only contributes to the book's slight hinky-factor.Mockingbird Songs . . . may motivate you to reread To Kill a Mockingbird (or TKAM as it is referred to throughout the correspondence), it may well make readers long for a definitive bio of Harper Lee (apparently none such exists), but in the spirit of Fair Warning: if such a biography appears authored by Flynt and this slim volume comes to be seen as some sort of audition for same, then that slightly "off" feeling is going to take a decidedly less charitable turn. (And if I'm being unfair here, Prof. Flynt, I do apologize. But you've got to admit that it all seems just a bit too convenient.)In closing, I won this uncorrected proof of the book as a Firstreads giveaway. It suffered from the absence of the photos that appear in the final version of the book. All told, I'm happy to have read it, and had altogether forgotten her Truman Capote connection, so that was a welcome reminder.
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  • D
    May 22, 2017
    Too much Flynt, not enough spark
  • John Hammontree
    May 9, 2017
    An unconventional "biography," Wayne Flynt's book is a collection of his personal correspondence with Harper Lee over 25+ years. It's such a treat to have access to more of Lee's writings (and the wit and wisdom that she deploys in her letters should hopefully put to rest any silly conspiracy theories about who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. It also makes a case that she wanted Go Set a Watchman to be published). This book doesn't offer a comprehensive look at her life, with the bulk of the book t An unconventional "biography," Wayne Flynt's book is a collection of his personal correspondence with Harper Lee over 25+ years. It's such a treat to have access to more of Lee's writings (and the wit and wisdom that she deploys in her letters should hopefully put to rest any silly conspiracy theories about who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. It also makes a case that she wanted Go Set a Watchman to be published). This book doesn't offer a comprehensive look at her life, with the bulk of the book taking place in the last years of her life, but does offer a look into who she was and what made her tick. It also contains the full text of Flynt's eulogy for Lee, which includes an excellent passage about why TKAM endures: "The point is that what happened in Maycomb could have happened in Fort Payne, Albertville, Demopolis, Brewton, Fairhope, and all the places in between. What happened in Maycomb did happen everywhere. To Jews in Prague; to homosexuals in Berlin; to Gypsies in Romania, Pentecostals in Russia, Muslims in Serbia. It happened to Okies and Arkies in California's Imperial Valley in the 1930s, to Appalachian whites in Detroit in the 1940s, and to people from Birmingham moving to New York City and Los Angeles in the 1960s. It happened to all people everywhere who talk funny, look strange, have a different color skin, worship God differently or not at all, people who stay in houses and refuse to come out and conform to our expectations or allow us to stare at them. It happens to the different, the strange, the other. That is the reason the novel still sells nearly a million copies a year nearly half a century after publication: because it continues to ring true to human experience. That is why it is required reading in so many Irish, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Austrian, Dutch, Czech, and German schools, why it has been translated into some forty lanuages: because the story is a story of the human experience, not just the story of what happened in Maycomb, Alabama."
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  • Kevin
    May 30, 2017
    Professor and historian Wayne Flynt (Keeping the Faith) first met Nelle Harper Lee in 1983 when the press-shy author of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD spoke at an Alabama heritage festival. A friendly correspondence (with occasional visits) began in 1992 and continued until Lee's death in 2016. MOCKINGBIRD SONGS collects both sides of their correspondence, and Flynt begins each chapter with succinct background information on the letters to follow. Lee may have avoided the spotlight, but her letters revea Professor and historian Wayne Flynt (Keeping the Faith) first met Nelle Harper Lee in 1983 when the press-shy author of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD spoke at an Alabama heritage festival. A friendly correspondence (with occasional visits) began in 1992 and continued until Lee's death in 2016. MOCKINGBIRD SONGS collects both sides of their correspondence, and Flynt begins each chapter with succinct background information on the letters to follow. Lee may have avoided the spotlight, but her letters reveal a devilishly funny, well-informed and gracious participant in life. Far from being a recluse, Lee lived half of every year in the Manhattan apartment she bought in the 1960s. "She was not one to excuse misstatements of fact, suffer fools gladly, silently dismiss literary misquotations, or allow anyone to invade her space without invitation," Flynt writes. But, she was also "empathetic, warm, nonjudgmental and a wonderful conversationalist." A stroke in 2007 slowed her down but didn't affect her faculties. Her letters have precision and punch. She recalls her complicated friendship with Truman Capote, stating, "I was his oldest friend and I did something Truman could not forgive: I wrote a novel that sold." She also delighted in the success of the 2015 publication of GO SET A WATCHMAN, her first draft of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, knowing that it presents a less romanticized version of Atticus Finch (and her father).MOCKINGBIRD SONGS is a sliver of an epistolary biography, but it towers over dry and unauthorized bios of Harper Lee thanks to her strong, compelling and entertaining voice situated center stage. Wayne Flynt's correspondence with Harper Lee from 1992 until her death in 2016 offers readers a tantalizing glimpse at the celebrated author's devilish wit and informed opinions.
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  • Lori L (She Treads Softly)
    May 3, 2017
    Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee by Wayne FlyntHarperCollins: 5/2/17eBook review copy; 240 pagesISBN-13: 9780062660084Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee by Wayne Flynt is recommended for the future historical significance of his correspondence with the notoriously private Nelle Harper Lee.This is a collection of letters Lee and Flynt sent to each other over the years, from 1992 to Lee's death in 2016. The letters show a side of Lee that few seldom saw and could be a Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee by Wayne FlyntHarperCollins: 5/2/17eBook review copy; 240 pagesISBN-13: 9780062660084Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee by Wayne Flynt is recommended for the future historical significance of his correspondence with the notoriously private Nelle Harper Lee.This is a collection of letters Lee and Flynt sent to each other over the years, from 1992 to Lee's death in 2016. The letters show a side of Lee that few seldom saw and could be a valuable resource for future biographers.Flynt opens up the organized sections of letters with comments about the letters that follow. There is a variety of subjects discussed and as you are reading them you can see the friendship between the two growing and maturing. The letters begin more formal and eventually become personal and intimate. There are a few feisty observations and comments from Lee that will be appreciated, along with her sense of humor and phrasing as the letter begin to exhibit more of her personality. It should be noted that Lee's attorney approved the publication of the letters.The value of this collection is the insight it provides into Lee's life during her correspondence with Flynt. It does beg the question, though, how she would have felt about the publication of their personal correspondence. She was a very private person. One rarely writes to friends and expects that exchange to be published in the future. However there is a long history of letters of famous people being collected and published.Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
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  • Sharon
    May 14, 2017
    This book consists primarily of the correspondence between Alabama historian Wayne Flynt and author Harper Lee, with occasional letters from other members of the Flynt and Lee families. Through these letters, we get a look not only at the friendship between the two principals, but also at literary history.Each chapter introduces the subject matter of the letters a bit so that readers are not left in the dark about some of the references made, and also talks about historical events either referen This book consists primarily of the correspondence between Alabama historian Wayne Flynt and author Harper Lee, with occasional letters from other members of the Flynt and Lee families. Through these letters, we get a look not only at the friendship between the two principals, but also at literary history.Each chapter introduces the subject matter of the letters a bit so that readers are not left in the dark about some of the references made, and also talks about historical events either referenced or happening at the time.Not every reader enjoys a semi-epistolary book, but I found it delightful. Highly recommended for those who loved either of Lee's two novels, or both of them. This book gives great insight into the author's thoughts and beliefs.
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  • Jessica James
    May 9, 2017
    The only book written about the Lee family that I will give any credit as being 100% factual. Dr. Flynt gives an honest, well-written account of not only Ms. Lee but her beloved family. As a resident of Brewton, I've known of TKAM as long as I can remember and have read it every year since I became a teenager. I wish this book was required reading for all of the critics that were convinced Go Set a Watchman was done so against Ms. Lee's wishes. Dr. Flynt allowing such an inspiring look into Ms. The only book written about the Lee family that I will give any credit as being 100% factual. Dr. Flynt gives an honest, well-written account of not only Ms. Lee but her beloved family. As a resident of Brewton, I've known of TKAM as long as I can remember and have read it every year since I became a teenager. I wish this book was required reading for all of the critics that were convinced Go Set a Watchman was done so against Ms. Lee's wishes. Dr. Flynt allowing such an inspiring look into Ms. Lee's private friendships and thoughts is a treasure. I highly recommend this title to any Nelle Harper fan!
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  • Brian
    May 11, 2017
    Flynt's tone in his letters to Ms. Lee is often so painfully cloying that one wonders how Lee was able to avoid a painful sprain from excessive eye-rolling. Nonetheless this is a mostly enjoyable book, even if it's difficult to imagine Lee being pleased with its publication. If you love TKAM and are interested in reading more from the famously reclusive writer, it's worth the short amount of time it will take to get through this book. Just be prepared to be reminded over and over how "distinguis Flynt's tone in his letters to Ms. Lee is often so painfully cloying that one wonders how Lee was able to avoid a painful sprain from excessive eye-rolling. Nonetheless this is a mostly enjoyable book, even if it's difficult to imagine Lee being pleased with its publication. If you love TKAM and are interested in reading more from the famously reclusive writer, it's worth the short amount of time it will take to get through this book. Just be prepared to be reminded over and over how "distinguished" Wayne Flynt is, either by Lee or Flynt himself.
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  • Dotty
    May 5, 2017
    I just loved this sweet book. It made me very happy to read the wonderful letters between Wayne Flint and Nelle Harper Lee. It beautifully illustrated a lovely and long time friendship. I was especially pleased to read that Miss Lee was happy that Go Set A Watchman was finally published & not because evil people had taken advantage of an old woman. Harper Lee was a fascinating and strong woman. She certainly lived her own unique life and did not give a damn what anyone thought. Good for her I just loved this sweet book. It made me very happy to read the wonderful letters between Wayne Flint and Nelle Harper Lee. It beautifully illustrated a lovely and long time friendship. I was especially pleased to read that Miss Lee was happy that Go Set A Watchman was finally published & not because evil people had taken advantage of an old woman. Harper Lee was a fascinating and strong woman. She certainly lived her own unique life and did not give a damn what anyone thought. Good for her and for all of us.
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  • Samar Ali
    May 6, 2017
    I could not put this book down. Professor Flynt's writings and letter exchanges with Harper Lee are really something. As a product of the American South, I couldn't help but be enthralled by the insights I learned from both authors. And as To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time, I was so happy that Professor Flynt decided to write this book. It's an important addition and it helps me accept that "you can love completely without completely understanding."
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  • Sandra Houston
    May 30, 2017
    I enjoyed Wayne Flynt's writing. This book is easy to read; you can read one or two letters at one time and later return to read more. It is a small book with wide margins, which can be read in a short time.
  • Sara
    May 12, 2017
    Dr. Flynt was my favorite professor at Auburn, and I loved taking his Alabama history class. He was a champion of To Kill a Mockingbird and its impact on the world. I never knew of his close friendship with Harper Lee and her sisters, so this short book of their correspondence was a delight.
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  • Stuart Shiffman
    May 21, 2017
    If you loved TKM you will appreciate this book as it adds to the background.
  • Julie
    June 4, 2017
    Finally read a book about Harper Lee that I think she would have liked. Got a good feel for her personality.
  • Jamie
    June 1, 2017
    Loved this. If you are a Harper Lee fan, you might want to check this out. Correspondence between her and one of her friends over about a 10-15 year period. Some great insights.
  • Carrie
    May 10, 2017
    An interesting window to the life and disposition of the late Harper Lee -- particularly in her later years.
  • Linda Quinn
    May 15, 2017
    A lovely little memoir based on the author's friendship and correspondence with the 3 Lee sisters over a quarter of a century.
  • Teresa
    May 14, 2017
    I'm partial to anything Mockingbird or Harper Lee so a book that gives more insight to this private steel magnolia feels like a blessing. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
  • William
    May 3, 2017
    Sheds an interesting light on this fascinating, cantankerous woman at the end of her life. It's a brief, amusing read.
  • Bernie Tomasso
    March 25, 2017
    I read this a few years ago but enjoyed learning about the author of my favorite book of all time. At the time that I read it, she was alive but living in a nursing home.
  • Diane
    May 13, 2017
    From the Christian Science Monitor: "Flynt and Lee’s correspondence began in 1992, and lasted until 2016. Their relationship had a rocky start, beginning when Lee “icily” refused to sign a book for Flynt, telling him 'I only sign for children. But Lee apparently came to love Flynt, partly through his public writings and speaking, and her effusive correspondence with the historian ended only as age began to take its toll on her...Flynt’s small collection of letters here provides a glimpse of Nell From the Christian Science Monitor: "Flynt and Lee’s correspondence began in 1992, and lasted until 2016. Their relationship had a rocky start, beginning when Lee “icily” refused to sign a book for Flynt, telling him 'I only sign for children. But Lee apparently came to love Flynt, partly through his public writings and speaking, and her effusive correspondence with the historian ended only as age began to take its toll on her...Flynt’s small collection of letters here provides a glimpse of Nelle Harper Lee in her last years, and a taste of the candor, affection, and humor she revealed to those she loved and trusted...Flynt’s own understanding and admiration for the novel and the themes it evokes is both spiritual and scholarly."
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