A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying

Book - 1994
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May 20, 2021

A powerful, moving & insightful story. Set in the forties in American south. Jefferson, a black boy, did not commit a crime but is arrested & will be hung. Grant Wiggins is a black teacher who is asked to help Jefferson to stand like a man .....to prove he is not a hog, as the white lawyer defending him said. All Grant wants to do leave where he is living....to get away from the expectations of his black community & the many many ways that he is mistreated from the whites' around him.
It's cold in some ways but very touching as well.

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.

Jan 08, 2015

A modern classic, Gaines's spare prose details the heartbreaking last months of an uneducated young black man in 1940s rural Louisiana. Charged with awakening the youth's humanity in the days before he faces the electric chair, the local schoolteacher must confront his own weaknesses and failures before he can spark an emotional and intellectual awakening. Gaines confronts challenging issues of what makes us human, and what makes us inhuman.

51anne Feb 09, 2013

I enjoyed the story and the writing style of Mr. Gaines. He was able to make the reader feel the anger and frustration of an educated black man living in America during the 1940's.

Jul 18, 2012

A Lesson Before Dying tells the story of a schoolteacher who is asked to visit a man wrongly accused and sentence to death simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It reveals the strength of character and community, as well as showing what it takes to resist oppression while maintaining your pride.

AmandaVollmershausen May 09, 2012

I read this book as part of my grade 11 university English course, and frankly found it a bit dry. It's set in the mid 1900's in Louisiana and focuses on the racism prevalent. The text offers a lot of symbolism, but has really no climax or literary suspense. It has a good message and is an interesting story, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Oct 01, 2011

Gaines' novel is a rich portrayal of racial segregation in the late 1940s United States (Louisiana). He sets the scene early by talking of churches and schools being separated by colour, and how this disparity between the groups leads to a (an innocent?) black man being sent to die by electrocution for killing a white man. Gaines has choosen an interesting metaphor for racism by using the characters of a black school teacher (education) and an uneducated man whose fate is to be decided by others (ie. whites). Note: there is not much talk about the actual execution, for those of you who are squeamish. (Oct 2007)

Nov 04, 2007

Oprah's book club.

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