Fans flock to festival to hear Gaines speak

Award-winning author Ernest Gaines prepares to greet an audience that had gathered inside the Sliman Theater on Saturday during the second day of the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival.

SHERISE HENRY / The Daily Iberian

“A Lesson Before Dying” author Ernest Gaines was one of the biggest highlights of the second day of the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival on Saturday.  

The Louisiana native from Point Coupee Parish had no problems drawing a crowd, as a packed room at the Sliman Theater heard him read from the first chapter of his latest book, “The Tragedy of Brady Sims.”  

New Iberia natives Jamaya Johnny and Sandra Melton came to the event together to hear from the literary great. 

“Hearing about him in school I thought this would be a great chance to come out and see him,” Johnny said.

 “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Melton agreed. “I just wanted to see him because he’s a great author and just being a black person I wanted to see him and be in the audience.” 

Gaines’ work which has been translated in French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese has a way of reaching an audience of any race that’s drawn to the human experience. 

One couple who was excited to see him traveled all the way down from Shreveport.

“We were excited to hear about the literary festival,” Patricia Becker from Shreveport said. “We are Dave Robicheaux fans, James Lee Burke, and we love Ernest Gaines. I wanted to see all the authors and artists who were here participating in the festival.”

Becker, an author herself, and her husband Steve said they enjoyed the culture as much as the festival offerings. 

“This is our first time down to this area and this will not be our last. There’s a lot to see and it’s been great,” Steve Becker said.

 Locals who have enjoyed the festival called Saturday’s speaker something special. 

“We’ve heard him (Ernest Gaines) speak before, and the fact that he is here locally is such a privilege,” Shirley Trahan said. “I’m so excited that New Iberia has the festival and it has grown so much. “I’m really happy that the organizers got this together.” 

The Books Along the Teche Literary Festival wraps up today with a T-Boy’s Bayou Adventure Tour, a film screening, ”In the Electric Mist” that starts at 2 p.m. and Symphony Sunday in the Park  which starts at 3 p.m. and is free.

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