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Ernest J. Gaines

Ernest J. Gaines was born on January 15, 1933 at a plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near New Roads, Louisiana, which is the Bayonne of all his fictional works. He is professor emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1993 Gaines received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the genius grant) for his lifetime achievements. In 1996 he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, of France’s highest decorations. He and his wife, Dianne, live in Oscar, Louisiana.

A Lesson Before Dying won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, the most recent of numerous awards that Gaines has received. A Wallace Stegner fellow in 1957, a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1967), a Guggenheim fellow (1971), and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow (1993), Mr. Gaines has steadily been recognized for his achievement as a master of the novel and short story. His novel, A Lesson Before Dying, is regularly included in high school English classes. In addition, one of his novels, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), has become an undisputed classic of twentieth-century American literature and gave rise to the immensely popular, award-winning TV-movie adaptation starring Cicely Tyson.