Ernest J. Gaines (1933-2019), a contemporary novelist who captured the Southern African-American experience, won numerous major literary awards for his books. At the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he once taught, the Edith Garland Dupre Library houses the Ernest J. Gaines Center on its third floor. This floor is intended for quiet study, so any visitors must be careful to be as silent as possible while viewing the exhibit. It consists of copies of many of Gaines’s books, display cases explaining different parts of his life, posters of his books’ covers, and quotes from him on a wide range of subjects.
It is well worth the trip and gives you a good sense of who he was. I had the unique experience of visiting the Center while in the middle of reading one of Gaines’s most famous books, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. I highly recommend both the book and the television adaptation for any students in eighth grade or higher. Seeing the exhibit while experiencing Gaines’s writing really helped me understand and appreciate the story.
Oddly enough, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is often placed incorrectly in the biography section of libraries because of its misleading title. It is a work of fiction and belongs under “G” for Gaines, not “P” for Pittman, who is not a real person, despite having a great life story and a very realistic voice. If you are looking for this book and cannot find it in the right place, try looking through the biographies for it. You probably will not be the first to find it there, but you may be the first to inform the librarian.
This is the sixth stop on our Louisiana Trail!