The novel has a long history of championing social justice. Fiction has the signal ability to embody social ideas in a compelling narrative that possesses both emotional and intellectual power. Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying offers a painful yet inspirational tale of institutional injustice and personal redemption. It addresses the biggest theme possible—how one affirms life in the face of death.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.
A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us. Whether you’re a regular reader already or making up for lost time, thank you for joining The Big Read.
Ernest Gaines (Copyright Joseph Sanford)
Sugarcane field (Copyright Samuel Portera)
Ernest J. Gaines walks the railroad tracks that run through his land. The tracks were once used to transport sugarcane from the fields to the mills. (Courtesy Ernest J. Gaines)