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One Book One CityOne City, One Book is a simple idea designed to bring people together to discuss literature and, more importantly, issues that affect us all. We have selected the novel, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, because we believe it can serve as an excellent springboard for discussions of such universal issues as death, education, religion, racism, justice, love, family and faith. We hope that you will participate in One City, One Book by reading the book and joining in the community programs. We also invite you to help us promote this exciting program by sharing your enthusiasm with your family, friends, clients, neighbors and co-workers. There are many ways you can get involved:

  • Read the book and discuss it with people you encounter
  • Sponsor an event or program
  • Organize a book discussion group
  • Invite someone to speak about the project at your next meeting
  • Promote and attend city-wide events
  • Donate books
  • Place a notice in your next newsletter or church/synagogue bulletin
  • Place a link from your website to ours

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. " 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