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NEA Big Read: A Lesson Before Dying and Ernest Gaines's Legacy

March 31, 2021 via Zoom

In this final NEA Big Read event, winners of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence came together to discuss the lasting legacy of Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying. They spoke about the craft and story of the novel, as well as Gaines’s body of work as a whole. Panelists included Gabriel Bump (Everywhere You Don’t Belong), Stephanie Powell Watts (We Are Taking Only What We Need), and Crystal Wilkinson (The Birds of Opulence).

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Lesson Before Dying is a deep and compassionate novel about a young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to visit a black youth on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.