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Amber Martinez


English 10H

20 October 2016

Annotated Bibliographies for A Lesson Before Dying

Seelye, Katharine Q. "Writer Tends Land Where Ancestors Were Slaves." The New York

Times. The New York Times, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

In Katharine Seelyes touching piece, written about A Lesson Before Dying author Ernest

J. Gaines, we learn about the history of Gainess Louisiana home: a restored plantation that once

belonged to the owners of Gainess ancestors, who were slaves. We also learn that living on the

former plantation has influenced much of his work, with Gaines himself even going so far as to

stating If I didnt have those people back there, I never would have had anything to write

about Thats where I got all my stories from. My life is from them. A truly powerful message

from Gaines, but even more so when you know that his writing has been shaped by the lives of

his ancestors. Knowing the background and inspiration of the author makes reading A Lesson

Before Dying all the more enjoyable and moving.

"An Interview with Ernest J. Gaines." TMR Content Archives. The Missouri Review, n.d.

20 Oct. 2016.

In The Missouri Reviews interview with author Ernest J. Gaines, Gaines discusses

the influences and background of his writing- and answers personal questions about his

own background and southern ties. However, his Southern heritage isnt the only influence

on his writing. As we learn through the interview, Gaines was also inspired by French and

Japanese films, which helped him in writing A Lesson Before Dying and A Gathering of Old


Gaines also mentions in the interview his Louisiana upbringing, and how he only

realised his dream to become a writer, not a teacher like he originally did for a living, when

he went to California. He also speaks about the irony of his reality versus the reality of his

writing, whereas many of his character only realise what they need after they return home

and face their demons- both internally and externally.

Brown, DeNeen. "Ernest J. Gaines's 'Lesson' Prompts Teens to Grapple with Stark

Realities." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 11 May 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

In DeNeen Browns article, she writes about the connections that students and teens are

making between the senseless, race fueled violence in urban cities to the racial injustice that the

characters of Ernest J. Gainess A Lesson Before Dying face. Male seniors in an

advanced-placement English class has a discussion about the book. The class, which consists of
15 black males and an exchange student from Vietnam, breaks all stereotypes about minorities,

in the words of their teacher.

The book, distributed to homeless programs, high schools, and youth centers around the

city, teaches teens an important Lesson about racial stereotypes and discrimination; and how

the obstacles that people of color face today are not so different than the obstacles that people of

color faced decades ago.

Senna, Carl. "Dying Like A Man." The New York Times: On the Web. The New York Times, 8

Aug. 1993. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

In Carl Sennas touching tribute to the moving A Lesson Before Dying by author Ernest J.

Gaines, he describes how the novels conflicts are convincing and realistic: Grant, the main

character and who the novel centers on, is caught between obeying his familys wishes and

marrying the woman he loves, which would mean crossing a racial divide. At the same time,

Grant must change Jefferson, wrongly accused of murder, into a man before he is sent to the

electric chair. Grants predicament is relatable, since at times, we can often find ourselves caught

up in too many things at once- we often spend our lives with our plates too full. For this reason,

A Lesson Before Dying is a highly regarded, deeply human novel.

Bell, Derrick A., Jr. "Racism In American Courts." Berkeley Law. California Law Review,

1973. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

In Derrick A. Bell Jrs piece on racism within Americas judicial system, he

describes the racial injustice that blacks face in courtrooms every day. Although everyone

who faces trial is guaranteed a jury of their peers, blacks who go on trial have a less than

fair fight in front of them- jurors are often chosen in secret by the prosecutor, who picks

people with a history of prejudice and racism against the black community. The judges are

not exempt from the injustice either, as they admit to often making decisions based on their

stereotype of the suspect and first impressions the suspect.

These imperfections in our countrys judicial system are evident, but there is no

effort being taken to make differences or changes. This only begs the question, how many

people want it to change? Its true that there will always be prejudiced and racist people in

our world, but it would be in everyones best interest to change the judicial system and how

it runs now, or suffer the consequences later.

Parini, Jay. "Guess What? American Racism Isn't about South." CNN. Cable News Network, 24

June 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

In Jay Parinis upfront and brutally honest article about the false association between

racism and the deep south, we are given a fresh, blunt explanation on how racism is not just a

Southern issue, but a national one. Parini discusses how all of our country struggles with racism,
and acts of terrorism- like the black church killing in Charleston which left 9 people dead- affect

the United States as a whole. He also notes that segregation is not just a Southern issue.

Although its illegal to separate American citizens based on race, the differences between blacks

and whites are clear. Neighborhoods are either fully black or fully white in Philadelphia, where

Parini grew up: never mixed. Even schools have a significant difference in races. There are either

more blacks or more whites at a school. Parini ends by stating that racism, and the violence that

surrounds it, exists everywhere, and reconciliation begins in our own hearts, wherever we live.