Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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In Search of the Novel: Ten Novelists

Ernest Gaines


Ernest James Gaines was born in 1933 on River Lake Plantation in Louisiana. He is the author of six novels including the widely acclaimed The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Gaines's fiction deals exclusively with life in rural black America, specifically in the fictional town of Bayonne, Louisiana. His work explores universal themes such as the conflict between tradition and change, relationships between fathers and sons, and the importance of maintaining dignity. Gaines learned the art of storytelling firsthand in his home because it was filled with visitors who gossiped and told elaborate ghost stories and folktales. At fifteen, Gaines moved to Vallejo, California, where he spent hours in the library reading Willa Cather, Turgenev, and Chekhov. He also read novels dealing with life in the American South which he found “untrue and unreal.” In 1957 Gaines committed himself to the idea of becoming a professional writer in order to “truly write about what he knows and feels.” He studied creative writing at Stanford University on a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship. Among his awards are the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.

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