The literary career of Ernest J. Gaines, writer-in-residence emeritus at the University of Louisiana, will be recognized with a series of film screenings, book talks, lectures and readings.


Gaines, 81, is the author of nine books of fiction, and was a faculty member at University of Louisiana for 21 years before he retired in 2004.

A total of about a dozen events have been planned to commemorate several anniversaries related to the writer’s work, said Dr. Matthew Teutsch, interim director of the Ernest J. Gaines Center. The center, which is located in the University’s Edith Garland Dupré Library, holds the only complete collection of the author’s papers and manuscripts.

The events begin with screenings of the short documentary “An Obsession of Mine: The Legacy of Ernest J. Gaines” and the film adaptation of Gaines’ short story “The Sky is Gray” at 6:30 p.m. at the Lafayette Public Library’s south regional branch. They will conclude on Nov. 21 with the second annual Ernest J. Gaines Lecture, by Dr. John Lowe, which will be held at 1 p.m. at the Gaines Center.

“Catherine Carmier,” Gaines’ first novel, was published 50 years ago, in 1964. The film version of “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” the first-person narrative of a fictional 110-year-old woman born into slavery, aired 40 years ago, in 1974. The TV movie received nine Emmy Awards. The novel, Gaines’ third, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize after its publication in 1971. It has sold more than one million copies in the United States, according to Amazon.com.

“A Lesson Before Dying,” Gaines’ last novel about an illiterate man condemned to death that was published in 1993, won a National Book Critics Circle Award. “The Chicago Tribune” called the novel “an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives.” The novel was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s popular book club.


Gaines accepted a National Medal of Arts last July from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House. The citation reads: “Drawing deeply from his childhood in the rural South, his works have shed new light on the African-American experience and given voice to those who have endured injustice.”

Gaines has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” and has been inducted into the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, or Order of Arts and Letters. His works have been translated into 18 languages.

“I just tried to write as well as I could,” said Gaines recently. “I tried to write about the human condition in every book.”

A complete schedule of events and more information about Ernest J. Gaines and his work is available at Ernest J. Gaines and his work is available at http://ernestgaines.louisiana.edu/.

Louisiana.edu