The Big Read Blog (Archive)

A Lesson Before Dying

On June 4, we announced the 2013 NEA Heritage Fellows . Holy moly, with nine states represented, could there be a more diverse range of artisans in terms of talent and geography? After you peruse their astounding biographies and compelling work samples, be sure to check out the Heritage Fellows on...
Irvin Mayfield with his trumpet. Photo courtesy of the artist When a Big Read author and a National Council on the Arts (NCA) member get together, beautiful music is made---literally. In a project that has been some eight years in the making, jazz musician and NCA member Irvin Mayfield is composing...
Ruby Dee and her copy of A Lesson Before Dying . Photo by Adam Kampe. Rural Louisiana is where author Ernest Gaines was born and raised. It's also the setting for his powerful novel about race and injustice, A Lesson Before Dying . I was given the gift of interviewing veteran actress and activist...
Washington, DC "The Teacher" by Kevin Dooley via Flickr While you may not be able to judge a book by its cover, sometimes you can tell an awful lot about a book from its first line. Or can you? Here are the first lines from five of the titles in The Big Read library. Can you guess which novels...
Washington, DC "I read every day. I have to read something every day." --- Ernest J. Gaines, from The Big Read: A Conversation with Ernest J. Gaines (Caricature byJohn Sherffius) Take a look at The Big Read film on Ernest J. Gaines and A Lesson Before Dying to learn how getting beat up in a...
Washington, DC Prison compound No. 1, Angola, Louisiana , July 1934. Photo by Alan Lomax, from Library of Congress collection. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for nearly three decades, Sister Helen Prejean has dedicated her life to prison ministry, particularly with inmates convicted of capital...
September 15 , 2009 Washington, DC Day laborers picking cotton near Clarksdale Mississippi. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, courtesy of Library of Congress. Ernest Gaines's novel A Lesson Before Dying is the story of an unlikely, and reluctant, friendship that grows between Jefferson, a death row...
June 5, 2009 Washington, DC Another sneak peek this morning at Thornton Wilder, who is debuting on The Big Read list this fall. As I read through an advance copy of the Reader?s Guide to The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town , I was struck by the opening quote, taken from a 1929 letter by Wilder...
February 13, 2009 Washington, DC It may seem fairly obvious, but I think we sometimes forget that writers are also readers. In this excerpt from the Reader?s Guide for A Lesson Before Dying , author Ernest Gaines reminisces about falling in love with books. As a child in Louisiana, there was no...
September 7, 2007 Washington, DC "I've always liked listening to the radio...That's one of the reasons why in a lot of my books there's somebody listening through a wall to somebody talking. Somebody's always talking in another room. Maybe that's the radio." -- Ernest J. Gaines I don't trust a...

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