Pulitzer Prize-nominated Gaines to speak at Literary Festival

Ernest J. Gaines will serve as the featured Great Southern Writer at this April's The Books Along the Teche Literary Festival. 

Ernest J. Gaines will be the featured Great Southern Writer at April’s The Books Along the Teche Literary Festival.

The 84-year-old Gaines, who was born to sharecroppers on a plantation in Point Coupee, is known worldwide as one of the most respected contemporary writers of African-American fiction. Gaines’ notable works include the famed “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” in 1971, “A Gathering of Old Men” in 1983 and “A Lesson Before Dying” in 1993, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

“We are extremely excited,” Pat Kahle, Director of Shadows-on-the-Teche said. “I am not a Southerner by birth, as I grew up in Pennsylvania. But one of the pieces of literature that had an impact on me was “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” It was a hugely influential book. 

“Mr. Gaines is truly a magnificent writer. He is a brilliant man and is extremely insightful living in the South, then going away for a while and then coming back, and understanding your roots and your history.”

Gaines’ works have also been turned into acclaimed television movies. “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” was turned into a 1974 TV movie on CBS starring Cicely Tyson which won eight Emmy Awards. “A Lesson Before Dying” was turned into a 1999 TV movie on HBO starring Don Cheadle and Cicely Tyson, and that movie won a pair of Emmys. 

Gaines’ latest novel is “The Tragedy of Brady Sims” which debuted at this year’s National Book Festival.

Gaines’ writing career began as a student at San Francisco State University where he started publishing stories in the university’s quarterly literary journal, which helped him get into Stanford University’s graduate program for creative writing. In 2004, he became Writer-in-Residence Emeritus at University of Louisiana at Lafayette and he and his wife, Dianne, live in Oscar, Louisiana, which is near the plantation where Gaines was born and raised.

Gaines is slated to speak at the Sliman Theater at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, 2018, the second day of the three-day festival. Gaines will take part in a question and answer session with the audience. Admission is free but event organizers are asking people to please reserve their seats via Eventbrite because of demand for the event. 

The festival is an event of the Iberia Preservation Alliance, formed by the Iberia Cultural Resources Association, the Bayou Teche Museum, Shadows-on-the-Teche and the New Iberia Main Street Program. The 2018 festival is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For anyone wanting additional information, please visit BooksAlongTheTecheLiteracyFestival.com or visit the festival’s page on Facebook.

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