Friday, September 23, 2016


Louisiana seems to stay in the news. Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of New Orleans in 2005 and recent flooding earlier this year caused loss of life and dwellings. The state is also known for its tremendous cultural tradition that includes great literature, music and food. Let’s take a look at a native Louisiana author whose novels have become contemporary classics - find them at the Monrovia Public Library!

African-American author Ernest Gaines was born in 1933 and is descended from sharecroppers. He grew up in an area where Black children picked cotton and were barely educated after 8th grade. It was a family move to California that sent the writer on the path to a college degree and the beginnings of a writing career that includes two titles that are considered great books of the Civil Rights Movement. Gaines’ books are popular both in high school and college classrooms and in book groups.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is an inspirational novel that tells the story of a slave freed after the Civil War, but soon plunged into a world of poverty in the Jim Crow south. Living 110 years, into the era of Black Power, she tells her own story. Set up like an oral history, the book is beautifully written and captures the great strength and humanity of the main character.

 In A Lesson Before Dying, a young educated teacher begins visiting a man about to be executed for a crime he did not commit. The teacher thinks he will impart education to the man who will inevitably die and instead learns about a more spiritual way of living. Called Gaines’ crowning achievement, this is a deeply moving story that packs an emotional wallop.  The 2 main characters are unforgettable.

Other Ernest Gaines novels are Catherine Carmier, a love story fraught with issues of racism, and In My Father's House, a story of redemption.

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