Pulitzer Prize winner and To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Monroeville city officials confirmed reports of Lee’s death to Alabama Public Radio. Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

Her famous novel about a young girl’s experience of racial tensions in a small Southern town has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

Lee’s family issued a statement Friday morning saying that Lee “passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing.”

Family spokesman Hank Conner, Lee’s nephew, said:

“This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

The family says that as Lee had requested, a private funeral service will be held.

CreditDonald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images

Lee made headlines last year, on the news that a companion to her beloved novel would be coming out some 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was first published in 1960. When that book, Go Set a Watchman, was published last summer, it set off debates about the author’s health and how involved she had been in the project.

An Alabama native, Lee moved to New York City in 1948 with the dream of being a writer. For about eight years, she worked as an airline reservationist at Eastern Airlines.

As NPR reported last summer:

“Lee’s fortunes began to improve at the end of 1956 when her friends Michael and Joy Williams Brown gave Nelle, as those close to Lee call her, a generous Christmas gift: enough money to spend a year writing. That’s when she completed the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman. The novel helped her find an agent, who got her signed to the publisher J.B. Lippincott. But Go Set a Watchman was never released. Instead, Lee’s editor urged her to expand on the flashback passages set during Scout’s childhood. Lee spent more than two years writing and rewriting the novel that became known as To Kill a Mockingbird.”

When it was published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird found immediate success. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year, and the novel inspired a film adaptation that came out in 1962 starring Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

That film was also a smashing success, garnering numerous Academy Award nominations and several wins.

Lee was famous for avoiding the public eye — one of the last extensive interviews she gave took place in 1964, when she spoke to New York radio station WQXR. Here’s some of what she said:

“Well, my objectives are very limited. I think I want to do the best I can with the talent that God gave me, I suppose. I would like to be the chronicler of something that I think is going down the drain very swiftly, and that is small-town, middle-class Southern life. There is something universal in it. Something decent to be said for it, and something to lament, once it goes, in its passing. In other words, all I want to be is the Jane Austen of South Alabama.”

In that same conversation, Lee also spoke of how she had attended law school, but “I didn’t graduate. I left the university one semester before I’d have gotten my degree.”

In 2007, Lee was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was honored with a National Medal of Arts in 2010.

Here’s how news website describes Lee’s final years:

“Harper Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, recovered and resumed her life in the hometown where she spent many of her 89 years. A guardedly private individual, Lee was respected and protected by residents of the town that displays Mockingbird-themed murals and each year stages theatrical productions of To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Lee returned to Monroeville for good once her sister Alice became ill and needed help. She’d eat breakfast each morning at the same fast-food place, and could later be seen picking up Alice from the law firm founded by their father.”

President and Mrs. Obama released this statement Friday in memory of Lee:

“‘Atticus, he was real nice.’

“‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’

“When Harper Lee sat down to write To Kill a Mockingbird, she wasn’t seeking awards or fame. She was a country girl who just wanted to tell an honest story about life as she saw it.

“But what that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves. Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.

“Ms. Lee changed America for the better. And there is no higher tribute we can offer her than to keep telling this timeless American story — to our students, to our neighbors, and to our children — and to constantly try, in our own lives, to finally see each other.”




Umberto Eco is dead: Long live Umberto Eco

Jealous novelists criticised his novels, but readers around the globe devoured his dazzling brilliance.

21 Feb 2016 09:33 GMT |

Italian writer Umberto Eco [AP]
Italian writer Umberto Eco [AP]

About the Author

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.


The news of the death of someone like Umberto Eco hits you like a thunderbolt – when you least expect it, and you don’t know what hit you. It leaves you blank, suddenly emptied, eerily silent. What does that even mean? “Umberto Eco, 84, best-selling academic who navigated two worlds, dies.”

I have had that feeling before – three or four times I think: when my most immediate teachers George Makdisi and Philip Rieff died, and then when Edward Said died, and then when Ingmar Bergman died while I was, in fact, in Sweden.

You stare into the world, but for a moment you don’t see anything. It is as if the light in your eyes is gone. You cannot hear anything. It is as if your life has been suddenly silenced.

Colombia declares three days of mourning for Marquez

A towering presence

I met Eco in the late 1980s, or maybe in the early 1990s – I cannot remember now – soon after I had joined Columbia and he had come there by the invitation of our Casa Italiana (Italian Academy) to deliver a lecture series. I had read him long before and I read him long after.

Eco had found his gradual, systematic, and increasingly towering presence in the scholarly world first and foremost as an exquisite semiotician and soon after that, as a hermeneutician.

With two particular books, Open Work (1962) and Limits of Interpretation (1990), he had opened and delimited the field of hermeneutics to such a wondrous humanistic spectrum no one ever before or after could imagine.

ALSO READ: Marquez and the magic of his realism 

His fame, however, suddenly became wildly global with the publication of his first novel, The Name of the Rose (1980), which was later turned into a movie starring Sean Connery in the lead role of William of Baskerville.

His prose was replete with the vertiginous wit of a polyglot thriving at intertexuality and virtuoso performance of his astounding erudition.

The Name of the Rose is a study in semiotics, hermeneutics, biblical exegesis, and medieval philosophy cast ingeniously as a murder mystery.

He would write a few other novels, and his sublime wit and exquisite sense of humour were for many years on display when he wrote regular columns in Italian newspapers. His prose was replete with the vertiginous wit of a polyglot thriving at intertextuality and virtuoso performance of his astounding erudition.

Flying like Peter Pan

In his writing, he flew with the ease and playfulness of Peter Pan from medieval aesthetics to literary criticism, semiotics, hermeneutics, media and cultural studies, and then diving with all his literary might for a quick column in a newspaper before soaring into a dazzlingly brilliant novel that would take the world by a storm.

No one would know what he had up his sleeve. Jealous novelists like Salman Rushdie did not like him; professional reviewers criticised his novels. But readers around the globe devoured his dazzling brilliance.

Soon after 9/11, when his fellow Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci was suddenly afflicted and diagnosed with a nasty case of the racist disease of Islamophobia and began spewing hatred of unfathomable depth and ferocity against Muslims, Eco wrote a gentle but dismantling piece against her without even mentioning her name, insisting on placing the civilised discourse on track of his own exemplary humanism.

Italian author Umberto Eco [EPA]

A few years ago, while I was in Milan, I was invited to the University of Bologna where he was the president of the Graduate School for the Study of the Humanities. I went to Bologna happily hoping I might get to see him. I could not.

He was too ill to attend my talk, but he had asked for a copy of my World of Persian Literary Humanism which had just been published. I left a copy for him with mutual friends and colleagues with a note of humility and gratitude written for him on the first page.

The mind of the sublime

I spent that day in Bologna with friends and colleagues, walking around Piazza Maggiore, visiting San Petronio Basilica, sitting down for a quick bite and a coffee, imagining Eco inhabiting that space. Right in front of the City Hall, I remember there was a demonstration against a proposed plan to privatise water resources.

ALSO READ: Khalil Gibran for a new generation

For Eco, aesthetics, politics, and hermeneutics dwelled somewhere between the heart of the mundane and the mind of the sublime.

All my students know my enduring indebtedness to his theories of hermeneutics and semiotics, to his happy, hopeful, joyous swinging from Homer to Mickey Mouse. 

One particular gem among his myriad of ideas is his famous triangular theory of interpretation: located somewhere among the intention of the author, the intention of the reader, and the intention of the text.

The name Umberto, long before he passed away, had transcended his mortal coil and became a citation informing his texts.

The intention of the author Umberto Eco became the voice resonating in the intention of his texts: varied, vivacious, brilliant, dizzying.

All that now remains is the enduring gaze and grace of those text awaiting any and all those fortunate enough to find their lost way into the labyrinth of his magnificent, enabling, beautiful thoughts. 

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera



Saturday, February 13, 2016, 8:42 PM
Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was a mentor to scores of aspiring journalists.
Sarah Glovervia YouTube

Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was a mentor to scores of aspiring journalists.

Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has died. He was 75.

Moore, known as a trailblazing and dogged reporter as well as a mentor to scores of aspiring journalists, helped found local and national organizations that advocate for black journalists.

Moore’s wife, Linda Wright Moore, said he died Friday night at their home in suburban Philadelphia after battling health issues for years.

The Philadelphia native served as an Army medic before becoming a copy clerk at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1962. He went on to become the first black reporter at the paper, working as an investigative reporter, editorial board member and columnist.

Moore was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his investigation of inmates at Fairvew State Hospital and was also a founder of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and later, the National Association of Black Journalists.

But his wife said he was most proud of a high school minority journalism program he started that has given scores of aspiring journalists an introduction to the craft.

“He was very smart and thoughtful, but at the same time, he was a regular guy,” she said. “His passion was helping and supporting and encouraging young journalists.”

Sarah Glover, president of the NABJ, said she was “heartbroken” by the passing of a man she called a longtime mentor and friend who had had an effect on the careers of hundreds of members of the organization.

“Moore left us a wonderful legacy as a humanitarian, truth seeker, fighter for equal opportunity and trailblazer who opened doors for countless journalists, especially those of color,” she said.

Moore is survived by his wife; his daughter, Mariah; his son, Acel Jr.; his sister, Geraldine Fisher; and his twin brother, Michael Moore.

WIth News Wire Services


Remembering NABJ Co-Founder Acel Moore

NPR’s Michel Martin remembers journalist Acel Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner who helped found the National Association of Black Journalists.


We’d like take a minute now to tell you about an important figure in American journalism. Acel Moore, a longtime editor, reporter and columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, died last night at the age of 75 at his home outside Philadelphia. His death was first reported by the National Association of Black Journalists, an organization he helped found. Moore received many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. His biggest impact though might have been as a mentor to hundreds of journalists, both informally and with programs to introduce people of diverse backgrounds to journalism careers. When we reached her today, Acel Moore’s widow, Linda Wright Moore, remembered his intelligence, humor and especially his passion for helping young people. We offer our condolences and appreciation to his family.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.




Ms. Raiola attracted a cult following as a formidable but lovable reality TV star. By Katie Rogers 20160221005355 –>

Even as her health worsened, Ms. Raiola continued to document her life on “Mob Wives.”

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images/File 2013

Even as her health worsened, Ms. Raiola continued to document her life on “Mob Wives” and “Couples Therapy.”

NEW YORK — Angela Raiola, the formidable but lovable reality TV star known as “Big Ang” who attracted a cult following as the most visible cast member of VH1’s “Mob Wives,” died early Thursday in New York. She was 55.

Ms. Raiola died of complications of cancer in a New York hospital after she contracted pneumonia, Jennifer Graziano, the show’s creator and executive producer, said in an interview.

Big Ang, whose nickname stemmed from her larger-than-life personality (and her apparent fondness for plastic surgery), was a niece of Salvatore Lombardi, known as Sally Dogs, of the Genovese crime family. She had been open not only about her illness, but also about her past struggles, including a felony drug conviction. Those problems were spun into significant story lines for the VH1 show.

Even as her health worsened, Ms. Raiola continued to document her life on “Mob Wives” and “Couples Therapy,” also on VH1. The cameras rolled as she detailed her discovery of Stage 2 throat cancer and, later, the removal of a lemon-size tumor from her throat. She also documented a medical visit in which a doctor told her she had to have a biopsy on her lung. A longtime smoker, Ms. Raiola was frank about her difficulty kicking the habit.

Ms. Raiola discussed her condition at length in an appearance on the “Dr. Oz” show broadcast Tuesday, in which she revealed that she had Stage 4 lung and brain cancer. She said that doctors were positive smoking had caused the lung cancer.

“I was smoking for 40 years,” she said in the interview. “I think whoever smokes should quit, and if they didn’t start, don’t start.”

Ms. Raiola leaves her husband, Neil Murphy, two children, and six grandchildren.

“Mob Wives” had its premiere in 2011, and the show offered a rare glimpse inside the lives of women tied to the mafia — a sisterhood whose group hierarchy is determined by each woman’s ability to remain silent about the actions of their husbands, fathers, or sons, whose involvement in “the lifestyle” invariably resulted in prison time.

On the show, respect is rigidly defined, and it is easy for the ladies to run afoul of each another — minuscule shifts in allegiances could result in tense, expletive-filled showdowns and violent rants. The feuds often carried over into Twitter, helping to ensure a ratings hit for the network and side businesses, which included Big Ang Wines, for the women.

But it was Ms. Raiola’s raspy voice; tall, buxom appearance (she was said to stand 5 feet 10 inches); and ability to add comic relief and common sense to tense situations that quickly made her a fan favorite. Big Ang had life experience and had seen her share of wiseguys. Catfights, she said, were not her forte.

“I’m in my 50s; they are in [their] 30s,” she said of the other wives. “I’m going to teach them manners.”

On Thursday, Michael Cilnis, a spokesman for VH1, released a statement, which said, “Angela Raiola was an incredibly strong, one-of-a-kind woman who taught us all to enjoy life to the fullest.”

The attention earned her a short-lived spinoff on VH1 called “Big Ang,” which followed her marriage and her life as a bartender at the Staten Island bar the Drunken Monkey. The bar attracted attention in 2014, when a patron died after he was punched outside the establishment.

Last March, the bar was shut down after a New York State Liquor Authority investigation found that Ms. Raiola, who did not hold the bar’s liquor license, was acting as owner and operator of the business, The Staten Island Advance reported. Ms. Raiola’s past felony conviction prohibited her from owning a bar. In a recent episode of “Mob Wives,” she is seen meeting with a lawyer in an effort to have her rights restored.

Graziano, the show’s producer, said that Ms. Raiola’s status as a fan favorite extended to the show’s cast and crew. She said Big Ang, whom she described as “electric,” loved to cook and play host to her loved ones. Her children and grandchildren were the most important people in her life, she said.

“She would feed the entire cast and crew,” Graziano said, adding that Ms. Raiola loved “any, any excuse for a party.”




February 19, 2016 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Matthews in the 1980s as singer Vanity.

By Jesse J. Holland

Associated Press

Denise Matthews, a Canadian-born Prince protege who renounced her sexy stage persona known as Vanity to become a Christian minister, has died. She was 57.

The singer and actress died Monday at a hospital in Fremont, Calif., said Gisela Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Washington Hospital Health Care System. Hernandez did not give a cause of death.

Matthews’ sister Renay said the death was from complications over longstanding kidney issues.

Denise Matthews

Denise Matthews

She said Denise Matthews was happy in recent years. “She loved her time in the ‘80s, but I think she loved her recent time more, because she had been at peace,” Renay Matthews said.

A native of Niagara Falls, Ont., Denise Matthews got her start in beauty pageants and modelling. She rocketed to stardom through her association with Prince and fronting the ‘80s girl group Vanity 6, which had the hit “Nasty Girl.”

During her time in music, Vanity released four albums with Motown and Warner Brothers and was known for her sultry appearance and sexually themed music. She also appeared in films in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, including “The Last Dragon,” “52 Pick-Up” and “Action Jackson.”

“When she walked into the room everyone knew she was something very special,” Craig R. Baxley, who directed “Action Jackson,” told The Canadian Press in an email Tuesday.

“She was gorgeous, smart and sassy, by sassy I mean she was a free spirit, she was fresh and independent. She had such a presence without saying a word. With Sharon Stone and Vanity on set most of the crew loved every minute of it.”

Matthews’ health took a turn for the worse in 1992 and she was hospitalized for kidney failure, which she attributed to cocaine and other drug use. She detailed her life in her 1999 autobiography, “Blame It On Vanity.”

“I was sick inside. I was a crack cocaine addict and didn’t even know how to wake up in the morning without some smoke,” she said in an Associated Press story in ‘99.

She renounced her Hollywood lifestyle and became a Christian minister. She married former Oakland Raider Anthony Smith in 1995 and they divorced the next year.

On a GoFundMe page aimed at helping her pay her medical bills, Matthews said four months ago she had gone through 23 surgeries and was on dialysis three times a week. She said she was also diagnosed with sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, a rare benign cause of small bowel obstruction.

Matthews said she had no regrets about leaving her celebrity lifestyle behind.

“When I was Vanity, it was all about me,” she said in 1999. “But when I’m preaching the word of God, it’s Jesus Christ speaking through me. I don’t want people to know who I was back then, but the new creature that God has made me.”

Musicians around the world expressed sorrow at Matthews’ death.

Prince, who was touring in Australia, dedicated several songs to Matthews during a show, according to the Herald Sun newspaper. They “used to love each other deeply,” Prince said, according to the newspaper. “She loved me for the artist I was. I loved her for the artist she was trying to be.”

Berry Gordy, who served as executive producer for “The Last Dragon,” called Matthews “a talented natural beauty, inside and out.”

“I just cannot believe Vanity is gone,” Gordy said. “She was such a vibrant human being.”

“Miss you dearly. U are in his arms now, no pain,” tweeted drummer Sheila E., who also worked with Prince.

Rapper MC Hammer tweeted that he had just attended church with Matthews on Saturday.

“Vanity left church after giving a beautiful testimony of appreciation for her Pastors & Thanks to her saviour Jesus, I was there,” he tweeted. “I was looking for her Sunday and the announcement came that she fell ill during the night.”

Prince had set up Vanity 6 and made Matthews the lead singer. He also wrote and produced “Nasty Girl” for their self-titled 1982 album and took the group on tour with him.

Model-actress Devin DeVasquez, who was also managed by Prince’s people at the start of her career, told The Canadian Press she and Matthews “were all in that circle of Prince’s girls, so to speak.”

The Canadian Press contributed to this report


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