Friday, November 30, 2007


And now, I have just finished reading A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines. Once again, I find myself overwhelmed by the power of literature to convey and illuminate the human condition.

Gaines is known for also having written The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, among other works. His writing is powerful, and it illustrates with unmistakable clarity the struggle that many African Americans have had to endure in American society.

A Lesson Before Dying is set in rural Louisiana in the 1940s. The protagonist, Grant Wiggins, is an educated black man who has to endure repeated indignities in order to survive in that society. He becomes a teacher, although he hates teaching, because that is the only profession that is open to a man of color in that culture in that day. He is called upon to try to help make sense of the death sentence imposed upon a young black man in his community.

This novel is filled with powerful imagery and symbolism. It won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award, and I can see why. Long after finishing this book, the reader will be thinking about its powerful message. How can it be, we must ask, that America was like this not so long ago? I can tell that this one is going to haunt me for a good while, as a good book should.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Hey Son--I hope that your nineteenth birthday is the best ever. It is difficult for me to have you so far away on your b-day, but I look forward to celebrating with you when you come home for Christmas. In case I haven't told you lately, I love you and am exceedingly proud of you.

Enjoy the big game in Baltimore this Saturday. I will be looking for you among the Midshipmen on TV. Go Navy! Beat Army!