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Ernest J. Gaines Books In Order

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Publication Order of Ernest J. Gaines Standalone Novels

Catherine Carmier (1964)Description / Buy at Amazon
Of Love and Dust (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Long Day in November (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
In My Father's House (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Gathering of Old Men (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Lesson Before Dying (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Tragedy of Brady Sims (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Ernest J. Gaines Short Stories/Novellas

My Grandpa and the Haint (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Ernest J. Gaines Collections

Bloodline (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
Mozart and Leadbelly (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Ernest J. Gaines Non-Fiction Books

Conversations with Ernest Gaines (1995)Description / Buy at Amazon
Three W's (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Stories of the Modern South(1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Louisiana Stories(1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Growing Up in the South(1991)Description / Buy at Amazon

Ernest J Gaines was an American literary fiction author from California that was known for writing some of the most intriguing pieces of fiction.

The author was born in the River Lake Plantation in South Louisiana in 1933. Gaines was born to plantation workers Manuel Gaines and Adrian Jeffersons and hence, he spent much of his childhood in the plantation quarter.

Growing up in Louisiana, Gaines went to rural schools in his locale. Whenever he was not in school, he earned 50 cents a day working in the cotton fields as an eight-year-old.

Soon after, his parents got separated and his mother moved away to California, where she got married to a man named Raphael Norbert Colar.

Going back to his childhood, Ernest J. Gaines remembers that the former slave quarter named the Cherie Quarter was the center of his world in those very early years. It was a place of history as five generations of his family had called it home which made it very special.

For his early schooling, he has gone to Louisiana where he spent six years attending school in a one-roomed church. He also went to a Catholic school established to cater to African Americans in nearby Louisiana where he studied for three years.

In the several years that followed, his parents’ divorce, he went to live with his great aunt Augusteen, who instilled in him a sense of dignity and personal responsibility. Gaines would then be called up by his mother and stepmother and went to live in California so that he could go to high school.

He would then graduate from high school in California and soon after joined the United States Army. While he was stationed in Guam, he showcased his writing talents as he won a creative writing contest.

Later on, while he was doing his undergraduate studies at San Francisco State College Gaines published his first short story. When Dorothea Oppenheimer saw the story, she was so impressed that she contacted him with an offer to become his agent.

When he finally graduated with a degree in English, he applied for and won a Stanford University scholarship by the Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship.

In 1964, Ernest J. Gaines published “Catherine Carmier” his debut novel. It was a manuscript he had begun writing when he was sixteen, as he realized that there was hardly any black perspectives in American literature at the time.

The work addresses the heartbreak and challenges of coming back to the plantation after being exposed to the wider world. Themes of separation and alienation are also prominent in the work.

In addition to his several novels, Gaines also published a collection of short stories. Over the years, his novels and short stories have been translated into more than twenty languages while four of his works have been adapted into movies.

Gaines’s work and life have also been presented in 25 doctoral dissertations, sixteen scholarly books, and three documentary films.

In 1981, he began teaching creative fiction at the Lafayette-based University of Louisiana. He was also a writer in residence at the university a post that he held between 1983 and 2004.

Ernest J. Gaines’s novel “A Lesson Before Dying” is a work set in the 1940s in the small community of Cajun.

A young black man named Jefferson finds himself embroiled in a liquor store shootout that leaves three men dead. He is the only man who survives and hence he is charged and sentenced to death.

On the other hand is Grant Wiggins, who went away to go to college and is now back working as a teacher.
Struggling with whether he should escape to another state or stay put, Jefferson’s godmother and his aunt ask him to visit Jefferson in jail and impart on him some pride and learning before he is executed.

Ultimately, the two men forge a bond so strong and come to acknowledge the simple heroism of defying and resisting the expected.

Ernest Gaines brings to the work the same deep understanding of the human psyche, a rich sense of place, and an understanding and compassion for the struggles people face.

“The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” by Ernest J. Gaines is the story of a strong and spunky black woman named Miss Jane Pittman.

She is more than 100 years old and tells her life from when she was a slave, the years after the emancipation, right up to the days of the Civil Rights Movement.

Ernest Gaines is well qualified to write on this as he grew up with his great aunt in Louisiana and heard a lot from the older people that visited her.
The lead is a fictional character that chronicles the experiences of people who lived through some of the most difficult times for black people in history.
While it is a fictional work, Gaines makes use of popular slave narratives in researching the work. He also explores the role of the black man as Joe the husband of Jane has to break in tough horses to prove his manhood.

Jane is a mother figure to both Jimmy and Ned who take on significant risks as they fight against the discrimination against black people. Jane never learned to write and read given that she was a slave and hence someone else taped her story.

Nonetheless, she comes off as a witty and spirited woman who takes life as it comes despite losing loved ones and facing all manner of challenges.

Ernest J. Gaines’s novel “A Gathering of Old Men” Is a work set in an African American suburb during the 1970s.

A white man has just been killed and when the local sheriff comes onto the scene, he finds one white woman and nearly twenty men standing around with shotguns. All the people on the scene including the white woman claim to be responsible for the shooting.

The dead man is the son of the patriarch of a local family known to be a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan. Everybody believes the father and his equally disreputable sons are going to want to exact revenge.

As the sheriff investigates, he knocks and slaps the men around until everyone bares their heart on why they hate the victim. There are horror stories that include beatings so bad that some people had to be institutionalized and even suffered brain damage.

It is a brutal but evocative story of the reality of the racist South of the 1970s.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Ernest J. Gaines

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