Ernest J. Gaines, writer-in-residence emeritus at the University of Louisiana, will give his first public reading at the university’s Ernest J. Gaines Center on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. Gaines is the author of eight books of fiction, including the classics The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson before Dying.
Gaines served as a member of the UL faculty for 21 years before he retired in 2005. His latest book, Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays by Ernest J. Gaines was compiled and edited by Young and Gaines Center Director Marcia Gaudet.
The reading by Dr. Gaines is part of an open session of Dr. Reggie Scott Young’s Louisiana Literature and is being organized by the students in his course, the English Department, and the Gaines Center.
Gaudet, Young, and recent UL doctoral candidate Wiley Cash also compiled and edited a pictorial history of Gaines as a Louisiana artist titled This Louisiana Thing that Drives Me: The Legacy of Ernest J. Gaines. The book is available from the University of Louisiana Press and various bookstores and online vendors.
The activity will feature Gaines’ first reading from a new work in progress that has not yet been titled. The early drafts concern the story of a young writer who, as Gaines did years ago, comes back to Louisiana after years of living elsewhere in an attempt to find his voice as a writer. Gaines has noted, however, that the work is still early in its development, and may decide go in a completely different direction.
According to Young, “Whenever students have a chance to see and hear from an author such as Ernest Gaines, it greatly adds to their appreciation of his works. Some of these students will one day be teachers themselves, and they will be able to tell their students about their experience of hearing Ernest J. Gaines in person.”
A discussion will follow the reading, and he will sign copies of his books at the conclusion of the program. This Louisiana Thing that Drives Me will be available for purchase at the reading.
The Ernest J. Gaines Center at UL is an international center for scholarship on Gaines and his work. The center provides a space for scholars and students to work with the Gaines papers and manuscripts.
Other sponsors of the event include Edith Garland Dupré Library, the UL English Department, the Deep South Festival of Writers, and Dr. David Barry, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. The event is free and open to the public.
The Gaines Center is located on the third floor of Dupré Library on the UL campus.