By Vince Gerasole

(CBS) — The country is mourning the loss of one of the most influential authors of our time. Harper Lee died in her sleep at the age of 89 in her hometown in Alabama.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole takes a look at her life and the book that’s touched generations.

In Dr. Dagny Bloland’s 8th grade English class at Whitney Young, Harper Lee is alive and well.

“For her to so to speak call out her society for its injustices that was a monumental achievement,” she said.

Her first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has been called the most influential piece of American Literature in modern times. The book tells the tale of racial and social injustice in the south through a child’s eyes

“It has made people change it has changed,” Bloland said.

Lee’s book was published in 1960 and would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize the next year. It’s sold 40 million copies to date and is based on Lee’s life growing up in small town Alabama.

Gregory Peck stared in the enormously successful film version, as the white attorney defending a black man falsely accused of rape.

In 2001 Mockingbird was selected for Chicago’s One Book, One Chicago citywide read. With a signed copy she wrote of the honor, “I am bowled over by it and humbled not a little,” an author whose words changed a generation with simplicity and eloquence.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the most taught works of fiction ever written by an American.

Vince Gerasole