Monday, April 11, 2016

Heroes in Black Arts History: Novelist Ernest J. Gaines

Heroes in Black Arts History: Author Ernest J. Gaines 

At the "We Got Dat LIT" book drive, Visualist handed me a book he thought I would enjoy plunging into. It was called "Words to Make My Dream Children Live". A compilation of quotes by various African Americans. For what ever reason the first page I turned to lead me to Ernest J Gaines. After reading the quote "There will always be men struggling to change, and there will always be those who are controlled by the past." I got a itch to learn more about him and it spark a idea.

So under the article title : Heroes in Black Arts History we will explore the legends in all forms of black arts, Beginning with African American Novelist... Ernest J. Gaines.

"Ernest J. Gaines was born on January 15, 1933 at a plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near New Roads, Louisiana, which is the Bayonne of all his fictional works. He is professor emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1993 Gaines received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the genius grant) for his lifetime achievements. In 1996 he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, of France’s highest decorations. He and his wife, Dianne, live in Oscar, Louisiana.

A Lesson Before Dying won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, the most

recent of numerous awards that Gaines has received. A Wallace Stegner fellow in 1957, a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1967), a Guggenheim fellow (1971), and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow (1993), Mr. Gaines has steadily been recognized for his achievement as a master of the novel and short story. His novel, A Lesson Before Dying, is regularly included in high school English classes. In addition, one of his novels, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), has become an undisputed classic of twentieth-century American literature and gave rise to the immensely popular, award-winning TV-movie adaptation starring Cicely Tyson. " 

From the pages to the screen to the stage : A Lesson Before Dying 

Every legend has their signature piece. And while Gaines created a plethora of amazing art. It's his Oprah Club stamp of approval novel "A Lesson Before Dying" that sets it off! 

 A Lesson Before Dying, is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson's godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting—and defying—the expected. 

A Conversation with Ernest J. Gaines by Lawrence Bridges  

"I try to create characters with character to help improve my own character. And maybe the character of the person who might read me. And I just hope that that book helped me become a better person and anyone else who has read it might become better than he was before they read the book. That's what I try to do." 

 Hearing him say those words touched something deep within me. It made me reevaluate the stories I've loved and those characters that inhabited the pages. 

Ernest J. Gaines journey is a treal one, without a doubt. I encourage to read his works and share it with others.  

If you happen to have any of Ernest J. Gaines work that you'd like to donate to our community library, or any other forms of literature please email: 

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