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Set in the cajun Deep South of the 1940's, Gaines's National Book Critics Circle award-winning novel is a poignant yet unsentimental treatment of dignity in the face of grave injustice. A slow-witted young black man is wrongly convicted of murder and the local black schoolteacher is convinced to spend time with him in the days leading up to his execution. His task is to "teach" him to meet his fate as a free-thinking man and not the animal he was portrayed as in the trial. What starts out as a futile and begrudgingly met obligation slowly transforms into an unusual bond between the two men. A lesson is indeed taught and learned. The reader, too, takes away a difficult and extraordinary lesson about humanity from this classic piece of American literature. — Stan Hynds
From the author of A Gathering of Old Men and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman comes a deep and compassionate novel, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.
"This majestic, moving novel is an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives."- Chicago Tribune
"A Lesson Before Dying reconfirms Ernest J. Gaines's position as an important American writer."- Boston Globe
"Enormously moving... Gaines unerringly evokes the place and time about which he writes."- Los Angeles Times