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Contact: Christine Payton JULY 6, 2010
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
UL Lafayette’s Writer-in-Residence Emeritus Ernest J. Gaines, whose novel “A Lesson Before Dying” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, received the 2010 Aspen Prize for Literature. The award is given by the Aspen Writer’s Foundation, Colorado’s oldest nonprofit literary organization and a program of the Aspen Institute.

Lisa Consiglio, the foundation’s executive director, praised Gaines on the organization’s web site. “There was no contest in selecting this year’s candidate for the Aspen Prize for Literature. Ernest Gaines — who represents the absolute best of Southern writing today and is revered by writers and readers alike — was at the top of our list from the very beginning. We are honored that he has chosen to accept this award.”

Gaines accepted the award via a video teleconference link during the foundation’s Summer Words Literary Festival in Aspen, Colo. Its theme was “Crossroads: A Literary Intersection of the American South.”

His best-known work,“A Lesson Before Dying,” was an Oprah Book Club pick in 1997 and was included the National Endowment for the Arts’ national reading program, The Big Read, in 2008. The novel tells the story of a young black man wrongly condemned to Louisiana’s electric chair by a white jury in 1948 and the teacher who tries to help him meet death with dignity.

Gaines’ bibliography includes nine works of fiction, including “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Gathering of Old Men.” His latest publication is “Mozart and Leadbelly,” a collection of stories and essays on writing.

The Ernest J. Gaines Center is currently under construction in UL Lafayette’s Edith Garland Dupré Library. The center will coordinate activities related to research and scholarship on Gaines’ work and will hold the complete collection of his papers, manuscripts and all published translations of his work.

Document last revised Tuesday, July 6, 2010 1:08 PM

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