“To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee died Friday. Here are local writers’ and actors’ responses when asked what the book meant to them and what its broader significance has been:

“She was a legend in publishing, the small-town girl who goes to New York to write a novel about her home town that becomes an enormous success and enables her to move back home and live a quiet private life and meanwhile her book goes on and on, a doorway for thousands of young people to enter into a fine appreciation of literature.”Garrison Keillor, author, “Lake Wobegon Days”

“ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ inspired so many writers, including myself, and her book is indispensable to our society, a reflection of good storytelling that goes beyond small town Alabama. Harper Lee never flaunted her success; she preferred to let her writing speak for itself. As Miss Maudie says in Mockingbird, ‘People in their right mind never take pride in their talents.’ ” Loretta Ellsworth, author of “In Search of Mockingbird”

"'To Kill a Mockingbird'--and 'Go Set a Watchman'--are evidence of how thoroughly alive and urgent books can be, how profoundly ingrained they become in our imaginations." — Julie Schumacher, author of “Dear Committee Members”

"Harper Lee accomplished exposing an ugly truth in American society through literature, which is often the only way it can be heard and believed." — Carolyn Holbrook, founder of SASE.

"The dream of every author is to create a work that is bigger than they are, large enough to confront the times in which they live. Lee was one of the few who did that. 'Mockingbird' appeared as the nation was grappling with the issue of race at a deeper level than ever before. Old customs were being challenged and standards for human conduct re-evaluated. We needed a story to make sense of it all." — Jonathan Odell, author of "Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League."

“It’s certainly no easy thing to sum up Harper Lee’s influence. What she managed to do in ‘Mockingbird’ was to broadcast and clarify this nation’s problem of racial hatred — and do it in a way readers could accept, because she showed it to us through a child’s eyes. ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ on the other hand, has challenged her vast readership to grapple with the unknowable chasm between the author as human being and the author as artist. (Though I have to doubt if that’s what she intended.)” Lin Enger, author of “The High Divide

“ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is one of those rare novels that helped, and continues to help, a whole society reckon with big, painful truths. It’s a book everyone should read, and re-read.” Peter Campion, author of “Other People”

“I think ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is the great American novel but tends to be under-recongized as such because it is written about a girl, and was written by a woman. It touches the lives of so many Americans because it wrestles with fundamentally American questions: how do we all live together in spite of our differences? Who is in our community and who is an outsider? How do we create equality for all? Lee asks all these questions through the eyes of an innocent, Scout, which makes us stop and ask ourselves all the questions. Scout learns that, when we fear the other, when we turn a part of our society into ‘Boo Radley,’ we hurt ourselves and our whole community.” Swati Avasthi, author of “Chasing Shadows”

“Harper Lee is gone, but the beauty and brilliance and mighty strength of her work will live with us forever.” Carol Connolly, St. Paul poet laureate

“Last summer I was lucky enough to be part of a commemorative reading that celebrated the publication of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by reading aloud, chapter by chapter, all of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ I loved this book when I taught it to my high school students, but over a decade had passed since I’d picked it up. I’d forgotten the simple lyrical grace of Harper Lee’s writing, her wit and insight into human foibles, her subtle commentary on Southern culture. I’d forgotten the marvelous charms of her narrator, Scout. Much has been written about both of her books’ importance, to the Civil Rights movement then and enduring issues of racial justice now. This matters, of course, but if a book like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ endures over time,I believe it’s because it touches a collective longing inside us for connection and change. It breaks our hard-hearts, so we remember to see ourselves in the stranger, so we step for a moment beyond the narrow range of our own limitations. — Thomas Maltman, author of “Little Wolves

“Each time I read ‘Mockingbird,’ I am somebody new. The first time, I was nine years old, listening to my dad read it chapter by chapter, night after night. I was not Scout then, as you might have thought. I was clearly Dill: the weird kid next door who always had a good story — the kid who didn’t really fit. The first time I read it on my own, at 11, was a different experience. I was Scout, then — restless, annoyed, hungry for truth and understanding, and sometimes forced to play a ham. Later, when I read it again as a teenager, I was Boo — alone, watchful, hypersensitive, with overly busy hands. And then, when I taught that book in a high school out West, I was Jem at first — a faith in justice so easily shaken, but later I settled into Calpurnia’s calm demeanor, offering food and comfort while insisting that everyone be their very best selves. I’ve been Eula Mae and Miss Maudie and Helen Robinson and even Sheriff Tate. Each character bears their own limited witness to the awful events in Maycomb that summer, and each one offers their own limited wisdom to how we move forward now — winking at justice, as Nelle would say. Like the residents of Maycomb, our view on things is small and pinched and overly-narrow; like each person in ‘Mockinbird,’ we all behave more awfully than we ought. And yet. Like Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus, we still have the ability in each of us to face the mob and speak for justice. And like Boo, no matter how frightened we may feel, we can still gather one another in our arms, and carry each other home.” Kelly Barnhill, author of “The Mostly True Story of Jack”

“ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’s’ timeless message of standing firm against racial and social injustice makes it a book that should be required re-reading. I, like many readers, admired Atticus Finch and wanted to model my parenting after his. Atticus Finch embodied justice and compassion and his children learned to follow his example. My favorite quote from the book, from Atticus: ‘You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.’ ”Lin Salisbury, community business development manager, Barnes & Noble at the Galleria

“Even without its historical importance, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ would be a classic for how perfectly it captures the voice and worldview of a child. Flannery O’Connor called it a ‘children’s book,’ and I think she’s right. She meant it dismissively, but I think recognizing ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ as a children’s book shows what a children’s book can be and what it can do.” Kurtis Scaletta, author of “Mudville.”

“ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was a key text in English classrooms throughout the country for at least two generations — probably more. So, I don’t think we can underestimate the impact that this story of white racial violence and white redemption has had on the collective psyches of Americans of all backgrounds. For better and for worse, Harper Lee created a story and characters that are emblematic of so many facets of American life.” Shannon Gibney, author of “See No Color.”

“I think ‘Mockingbird’ is about our collective consciousness and personal agency. As an artist playing the role of Tom Robinson, I thought the work was about advocating for yourself, speaking truth for the times, and being on the side of truth, justice and ethics. The story is really about being your best. In the worst possible scenarios, you have to seek the best in yourself and stand on that. Laws are made by men, but how we look at justice is about ourselves and our own measure of humanity — and lack thereof.”Ansa Akyea, actor in the Guthrie Theater’s September production of “Mockingbird.”

COMPILED BY LAURIE HERTZEL