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Featured Expert : Southern Culture/Literature

Roberts, a professor of English specializing in southern culture, is available to discuss the revelation that a new Harper Lee book will be published this year.

“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.”