CONTACT: Jeffery Seay, University Communications(850) 644-0277; [email protected]

February 2015


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. ⎯ With the exciting and unexpected news that a sequel to Harper Lee’s landmark novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be published July 14, a noted Florida State University professor of English is available to provide context and analysis.

•Diane Roberts, professor, Department of English: (850) 508-5867, [email protected] Roberts, who specializes in Southern culture, is an author, columnist, essayist, radio commentator, reviewer and professor. She earned her doctorate at Oxford University.

Roberts’ book, “Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans and other Florida Wildlife,” chronicles her politically prominent — and humorously odd — family. Her two other books — “Faulkner and Southern Womanhood” and “The Myth of Aunt Jemima” — are explorations of Southern culture. She has written op-ed pieces for the New York Times, the New Republic and the Times of London, and she has been a commentator for NPR since 1993.

Roberts, who is available for interviews, offered the following thoughts about Lee’s forthcoming novel “Go Set a Watchman”:

“Finding a ‘lost’ first novel by Nelle Harper Lee is akin to discovering J.D. Salinger’s prequel to ‘Catcher in the Rye’: a treat for fans, a massive payday for publishers and a ready-made controversy.

“Another controversy, I should say: Some people still speculate that Truman Capote (Lee’s next-door neighbor in Monroeville, Ala.) actually wrote ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Lee is 88 years old and not in good health. Her sister, Miss Alice Lee, who practiced law until she died at the age of 100, feared that Lee would be taken advantage of. Does she really want ‘Go Set A Watchman’ published? She made clear that she said what she wanted to say in ‘Mockingbird.’

“Whatever the case, the chance to see how Scout Finch began in Lee’s head as a grown woman living in New York, returning to Alabama to visit an older Atticus, is just too good to pass up — whatever its literary merits.

“It’s said that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ launched 10,000 law school applications, even before Gregory Peck in a white linen suit made trials sexy.

“Here we are in 2015 and America still can’t seem to treat young black men fairly. Maybe revisiting racism in the 1950s as seen by Harper Lee will help us along our long road to justice.”