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A Lesson Before Dying
A Lesson Before Dying won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, one 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. In addition, one of his novels, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), has become an undisputed classic of 20th-Century American literature and gave rise to the immensely popular, award-winning TV-movie adaptation starring Cicely Tyson.
Ernest J. Gaines, in his own words:"We all know -- at least intellectually -- that we?re going [to die]. The difference is being told, ?Okay, it?s tomorrow at 10 a.m.? How do you react to that? How do you face it? That, it seems to me, is the ultimate test of life.
When I speak to black students about Hemingway, they often ask me what I expect them to learn from that white man? I tell them: "All Hemingway wrote about was grace under pressure. And he was talking about you. Can you tell me a better example of grace under pressure than our people for the past three hundred years? Grace under pressure isn't just about bullfighters and men at war. It's about getting up every day to face a job or a white boss you don?t like but have to face to feed your children so they'll grow up to be a better generation."
What the Reviewers Say:
"Populated by strong, unforgettable characters, Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying offers a lesson for a lifetime. " Amazon.com Review
"By containing unbearably painful emotions within simple declarative sentences and everyday speech rhythms, Gaines has written a novel that is not only never maudlin, but approaches the spare beauty of a classic." ~ Kirkus Associates, LP
"This majestic, moving novel is an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives." ~ The Chicago Tribune