Ernest Gaines, Author Of 'One Book, One Waco' Selection, To Lecture At Baylor Oct. 17

Oct. 16, 2002
News Photo 714Ernest Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying

Baylor University students and City of Waco officials have announced that "A Lesson Before Dying" by acclaimed African-American author Ernest Gaines will be the inaugural book in "One Book, One Waco," a reading program to promote unity and literacy in Waco. Gaines also will visit Baylor on Oct. 17 at Baylor as he delivers the Ferguson-Clark Author Lecture, sponsored by the University Libraries. Proceeds benefit student-centered library projects.

Gaines' lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Jones Theater of the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Building. Tickets for Gaines' lecture are $50 for patrons, $15 general admission and $10 for students and are available at the Baylor Ticket Office.

In addition to his public lecture, the acclaimed author will meet with advanced placement English students and members of the National Honor and Edwards Literary Societies at Waco High School. During this time with local students, Gaines will speak on why and how he writes and will lead a discussion from A Lesson Before Dying and A Gathering of Old Men.

"Ernest Gaines deals with how people treat one another, a very difficult topic at times," said John Wilson, associate professor, documents librarian and library development coordinator. "No matter how far we think we have come as a nation regarding race relations, there is always more to say and take action upon. Ernest Gaines is capable of making the reader know what it is like to be African-American, if only for a moment. He gives clear voice to the African-American community."

"One Book, One Waco"

"One Book, One Waco" is a city-wide program that developers hope "promotes reading and thoughtful discussion, with activities and events focused on encouraging community participation," according to the group's mission statement.

Gaines' "A Lesson Before Dying" was announced as the inaugural book for the program through a joint unveiling by Waco City Manager Kathy Rice, Baylor Director of Human Relations Ramona Curtis, and Baylor Student Body External Vice President John Hill.

A nine-member book selection committee including Mayor Linda Ethridge, Rice, and representatives of Waco ISD, the business community, the libraries, and parents chose the book over the summer.

"'A Lesson Before Dying' was chosen because of its literary merit, themes relevant to the Waco community, and the potential for developing community programs centered around the book," Hill said.

Gaines won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for "A Lesson Before Dying," which tells the wrenching story of an unjustly condemned man's attempt to define himself during his last day, and the teacher who befriends and helps him in the struggle.

Gaines was born on a plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near New Roads, La., which is the Bayonne of all his fictional works. His previous books include A Gathering of Old Men, In My Father's House and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. He is writer-in-residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Events On Web Site

The actual events surrounding "One Book, One Waco" will take place throughout the month of April, the founders said. Possible events include essay and art contests, discussion groups, movie presentations, and guest speakers. These events will be listed on the program web site, as they are scheduled.

"One Book, One Waco" is modeled after a program started in Seattle. The idea has been duplicated in many communities throughout the nation including Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston. Implementing the program in Waco was the idea of Dr. Eileen Hulme, Baylor's vice president for student life. The program is now being developed and directed by a committee of eight Baylor students.

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