Ernest J(ames) Gaines (1933- )
A Lesson Before Dying
- Born in 1933 in Oscar, Louisiana [some sources cite River Lake Plantation, near New
Roads, Pointe Coupee Parish, LA, the Bayonne of his fiction].
- One of twelve children; moved with his family to California at age 15 in order to get an
education (1940s Louisiana law prohibited Blacks from attending high school or entering
- Attended Vallejo Junior College, San Francisco State University (B.A., 1957), and
Stanford University (1958-59).
- Served in the U.S. Army, 1953-55.
- Married to Dianne Saulnety Gaines, an lawyer who served as Assistant Dade County
Attorney from 1980-1996.
- Has served as writer-in-residence and/or professor at several universities, including
Denison University, Stanford University, and Whittier College; since 1981, has been
Professor of English and writer-in residence at University of Southwestern Lousiiana,
- Received the National Book Critics Circle, Southern Writers' Conference, Louisiana
Library, John Dos Passos, and Amistad awards for his most recent novel, A Lesson
- Subject of the film Louisiana Stories: Ernest Gaines; an excellent film version
of A Lesson Before Dying premiered on HBO in 1998-99.
- A past selection of Oprah's Book Club.
Catherine Carmier (1964)
Of Love and Dust (1967)
Bloodline (short stories) (1997)
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971)
In My Father's House (1978)
A Gathering of Old Men (1983)
A Lesson Before Dying (1993)
- Conversations with Ernest Gaines. Ed. by John Lowe, University Press of
Mississippi (Jackson), 1995.
discussing film version of A Lesson Before Dying
Critical Sources and Reviews
- Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications:
Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volumes 6 and 24, Contemporary
Black Biography, Volume 7, and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volumes 3,
11, 18, and 86. Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online)
can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com. (All
volumes above contain portrait.)
- Other print sources for biographical and critical information:
Valerie-Melissa Babb, Twayne, 1991.
Wrestling Angels Into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines
and James Alan
McPherson, by Hermann
Beavers. Philadelphia, 1995.
J. Gaines: A Critical Companion, by Karen Carmean. Greenwood, 1998.
Southern Writers. Edited by Roger Matuz. Detroit, 1999.
- Other review sources:
African American Review, fall 1994; February 1998.
Chronicle of Higher Education, May 11, 1994.
Washington Post Book World, March 28, 1993; May 23, 1993.
Writer, May 1999.
Retired Discussion Series