NEA Big Read
To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write.

Harper Lee (Bettmann/Corbis)

David Baker serves as Chair of the Department of Jazz Studies and Distinguished Professor of Music at the Indiana University School of Music. He is also the conductor and artistic director for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. To his credit are more than 2,000 compositions, including jazz, symphonic, and chamber works. In 2000, Baker became an NEA Jazz Master.

Actor and producer Robert Duvall was born in San Diego, California, in 1931. Most famous for his roles in the first two Godfather movies (1972, 1974), Apocalypse Now (1979), and The Great Santini (1979), he made his film debut as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). In 1984, he won an Oscar as Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies; in 2005, he received the National Medal of Arts.

Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004).

Native Texan Horton Foote (1916-2009) was an award-winning dramatist and screenwriter. A founder of the American Actors Company, Foote received Oscars for his screenplays To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983). His play The Young Man From Atlanta was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. His honors included the National Medal of Arts in 2000.

Before Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981, she held several political offices in Arizona. She was the first female Republican state majority leader in the country, and she was later appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals. She served on the Supreme Court for 25 years before her retirement in 2006.

Charles J. Shields, a former teacher, has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of non-fiction books for young people. Some of these include Mohandas K. Gandhi, Roald Dahl, and Amy Tan. In 2006, Shields published the first full-length biography of Harper Lee, titled Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.

Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld is a graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Monthly. She was the 2002-2003 writer-in-residence at St. Albans School in Washington, DC. Sittenfeld's first novel, Prep (2005) was a national best-seller. Other novels include The Man of My Dreams (2006), American Wife (2008), and Sisterland (2013).

Born in Carrollton, Mississippi, Elizabeth Spencer has published several novels and short-story collections, a work of non-fiction, and a play. With a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1953, she planned to live in Italy for one year, but stayed for five. Her most famous work set in Italy, the novella The Light in the Piazza (1960), was written in Montreal, where she lived for 28 years.

Actress Anne Twomey was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her Broadway credits include Orpheus Descending, To Grandmother's House We Go, and Nuts, for which she received a Tony nomination and a Theatre World Award in 1980. Twomey's television credits include guest roles and appearances on Third Watch, L.A. Law, Seinfeld, Law & Order: SVU, and Spin City.

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