A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying

[a Novel]

Book - 2006
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From the author of A Gathering of Old Men and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman comes a deep and compassionate novel, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.
Publisher: New York : A.A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, Inc., 2006, c1993
ISBN: 9780679455615
Characteristics: 256 p. ; 22 cm

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Feb 04, 2020

Read Jan. 2020. Black man wrongfully given death sentence by white jury and his struggle to be a man, not an animal as the defence lawyer said.

IndyPL_TomP Nov 20, 2019

The author of this book, Ernest Gaines, died November 5, 2019, and I decided it was finally time I read this book, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1993.

Nov 17, 2019

Altho set in pre-civil-rights era Louisiana of the late 1940s, Gaines wrote and published this book in 1993.

It's heart-breaking book in many ways.

I was particularly affected by all the small, little ways of demonstrating that a person doesn’t matter. Incredibly damaging, event to read about it. I am a white woman, and a black friend visited Las Vegas, auditioning for a job. I gave him a life to the Strip. Stopped at a red light, I heard car door being locked around us. I couldn't believe my ears...! I commented on people using a red light stop to check their doors. Mario told, "Hey, not unusual in my experience..." I could not believe my ears.

It makes me think...
Gaines published this book in 1993.
I think he has a message for us, right now, today.

Have we changed at all? Does it still happen today?
How many of us are 'of good stock?' Do we act like it, or do we have unconscious, in-grained bad behaviors that slip out?
And there are still those of us who are not 'of good stock,' eh?

IndyPL_RyanD Apr 03, 2019

I enjoyed reading this book by Ernest Gaines because I felt this fictional story gave an accurate portrayal of the criminal justice system and racism against African Americans in the United States during the late 1940s. I found the story compelling, and I enjoyed reading about the hardships and friendships the character Grant Wiggins encounters while trying to mentor another character in the book named Jefferson who is wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to death.

Oct 08, 2018

For book club on 10/5/2018. Excellent writing, poignant tale of the abusive Southern treatment of blacks in the late 1940s.

May 27, 2018

Set in Louisiana during the late 1940s, an uneducated black man is unfairly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The local elementary school teacher, the only educated black man in the community, reluctantly agrees to tutor the unfortunate prisoner so that he can approach death with dignity. Gaines emphasizes the racial inequalities in the tiny community, and draws out a powerful theme about how it can be heroic to defy the unfair expectations put upon you by society. The writing is excellent, but I found the book a bit dull because the outcome is entirely predictable.

Jan 30, 2017

A very powerful book regarding African American life in post WW2 US. Thought provoking and informative.

Jul 06, 2016

Absolutely phenomenal and beautiful. I finished this book in two days. Extraordinarily simple but nonetheless a moving story of two men living against expectations who try to meet in the middle.

Jun 05, 2015

This is an 11th grade curriculum choice in Millard Public Schools.

May 09, 2015

Although this fictional book takes place in Pre-Civil Rights age Louisiana, people today will relate to the hardships, conflict and inspiration all of the characters experience. It is no wonder this book was an Oprah Book Club selection in the 1990s. Even more important today than it was years ago due to the mass incarceration of African-American males in the United States.

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May 30, 2019

miashay thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jun 05, 2015

ckaldahl thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Jul 24, 2014

Ferociousdog thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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AmandaVollmershausen May 09, 2012

This novel follows the events after a verdict is handed out to an uneducated black man on shoddy evidence and very slim motives. The implication is that the verdict was racist and the rest of the book explores that theme. During his trial, the man, (Jefferson) is compared to a hog. The rest of the novel is about the development of his character as Grant, a cynical black schoolteacher teaches him that he is just as brave and valuable as any of the white folk. The novel is a heartfelt testimony that centres around the hopelessness of unjust discrimination and a person's self worth.


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Jul 24, 2014

"Called him a hog" by Grant's aunt


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