The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Ernest Gaines

On June 4, we announced the 2013 NEA Heritage Fellows . Holy moly, with nine states represented, could there be a more diverse range of artisans in terms of talent and geography? After you peruse their astounding biographies and compelling work samples, be sure to check out the Heritage Fellows on...
Irvin Mayfield with his trumpet. Photo courtesy of the artist When a Big Read author and a National Council on the Arts (NCA) member get together, beautiful music is made---literally. In a project that has been some eight years in the making, jazz musician and NCA member Irvin Mayfield is composing...
Ruby Dee and her copy of A Lesson Before Dying . Photo by Adam Kampe. Rural Louisiana is where author Ernest Gaines was born and raised. It's also the setting for his powerful novel about race and injustice, A Lesson Before Dying . I was given the gift of interviewing veteran actress and activist...
Washington, DC "The Teacher" by Kevin Dooley via Flickr While you may not be able to judge a book by its cover, sometimes you can tell an awful lot about a book from its first line. Or can you? Here are the first lines from five of the titles in The Big Read library. Can you guess which novels...
September 15 , 2009 Washington, DC Day laborers picking cotton near Clarksdale Mississippi. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, courtesy of Library of Congress. Ernest Gaines's novel A Lesson Before Dying is the story of an unlikely, and reluctant, friendship that grows between Jefferson, a death row...