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May 15, 2019

Finalists named for 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction; voting now open to public

CHICAGO, May 15, 2019 – The ABA Journal and the University of Alabama Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law have announced the finalists for the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

The three books chosen to compete for the prize are: “The Boat People” by Sharon Bala, “Class Action” by Steven B. Frank and “The Widows of Malabar Hill” by Sujata Massey.

“This year’s Harper Lee Prize was particularly difficult to judge,” said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. “We were evaluating so many gripping and compelling reads. The finalists represent the diversity of this year’s submissions, from a novel about Sri Lankan refugees seeking a new start, to the story of a trailblazing woman lawyer fighting for her clients in 1920s India, and, finally, a charming middle school book featuring a spunky student who goes to court after he’s suspended for protesting homework. The characters are as inspiring as they are engaging.”

The prize, previously authorized by the late Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.

Nine years ago, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and to honor former University of Alabama law student and author Harper Lee, The University of Alabama Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law and the ABA Journal partnered to create The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

There were 25 entries for the prize this year, and a team of reviewers chose three books for the selection committee’s consideration. The public is invited to cast votes on the ABA Journal website to help determine who the winning author will be. The public will act as the sixth judge, contributing a vote equal in weight to the selection committee members.

To vote, visit:

Voting is open until June 30 at 11:59 p.m. Central.

The 2019 prize will be awarded Aug. 29 at the Library of Congress in conjunction with National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced prior to the ceremony and will receive a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” signed by Harper Lee.

A distinguished panel of writers and scholars will select the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. They are: Robert Barnes, U.S. Supreme Court reporter, The Washington Post; Steven Hobbs, Tom Bevill Chairholder of Law, UA’s Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law; Claire Matturro, alumna, UA’s Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law; Utz McKnight, chair of the department of gender and race studies and professor of political science, UA; and Gin Phillips, author, “Fierce Kingdom.”

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews