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A Lesson Before Dying School & Library Binding – Sep 1 1997


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Product Details

  • School & Library Binding: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Turtle Back Books (Sept. 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785769811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785769811
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.9 x 20.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 313 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (402 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #658,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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I WAS NOT THERE, yet I was there. Read the first page
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By Lava1964 TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 15 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is set in rural Louisiana in the late 1940s. The main character is Grant Wiggins, the most educated black man in a parish where educated blacks are rare. Against his wishes Wiggins becomes a teacher--actually the only teacher--at an impoverished one-room school close to home. (He'd much rather leave the parish entirely and look for greener pastures to make his mark in life.) But that's not too impotant to the plot. Wiggins is cajoled by his family members to "make a human" out of an ignorant black man, Jefferson, who is about to be rightfully executed for his involvement in a liquor store robbery that turned into the murder of the proprietor. Author Gaines attempts to make the reader feel pity for Jefferson and for Wiggins at the same time because they have difficult lives. Personally, it's tough for me to muster any sympathy for anyone who allows himself to get involved with a robbery/murder, so Gaines failed to persuade me to believe that Jefferson is just another victim of race prejudice. I suspect this novel will become more of a mandatory read for high-school students than it already is, as it fits the category of books that today's English teachers love: the oppressed minorities being held back by social circumstances beyond their control. Still, I'll give it four stars out of five.
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By Jessica on June 2 2004
Format: Paperback
This year, i really havent read much, but i've found a book that i really enjoyed, A Lesson before Dying. The book had a really good beginning, it grabed my attention right away. It starts of in the court, some one has been killed, and their trying to figure out if the "man" is really guilty of robbery and first degree murder. Their is also these two main characters that they call them Brother & bear, and they go to court to support their friend, telling them thir side of the story, because they were there with him. Later on the story, the mother is really upsset, but believes that her son is inocent of all charges. When the court is finally over, after all the convincing storys from both sides, the man was guilty with all charges of robbery and first degree murder. The man claims that he didnt kill the worker at the liqior store, and that he dindt take any of the money.
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By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 14 2010
Format: Audio CD
This is the story of Jefferson, a youn man living in rural Louisiana about 1948, who has been erroneously convicted of murdering a white shop keeper. Once his white lawyer has referred to him as a hog, his behaviour reverts to that of an animal. His Aunt Emma, who raised him, asks the local school teacher, Grant Wiggins, to speak with him and to help Jefferson to regain his humanity and to face his future with dignity befitting a man.
The school teacher has his own challenges. He hates living in the south, being reminded daily of the poor circumstances of the black man and the mean way in which they are treated. He longs to leave and work elsewhere, but he can't just walk away from the request of Aunt Emma as she was one of the people who helped pay for his college education.

I down loaded this from my library and listened to it on my ipod while driving. Unfortunately I had it set to shuffle and I listened to the second half of the story first and then the first half. Yes, I was a bit confused at moments, but it made me listen all that more intently. I think I might have even gained more listening to it this way.

This was an incredibly moving book. Yes, it was bad that an innocent man was railroaded into a convictions for a crime where he was a bystander. For me this book was more about the actual people of Jefferson and Grant Wiggins. They had the power to chose the type of man they were going to be, the type of man they would present to those surrounding them. Jefferson could be dragged to the electric chair or he could walk there with his head up and show that he was a better person than those who put him on that path. He was able to chose to ignore all those who said he was nothing better than an animal.
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By Lily Bartels on June 10 2005
Format: Paperback
We have read this book before. We have heard these lessons taught and we have seen what happens when we refuse to learn them. We heard the voice of innocence lost in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout realized that racism for the sake of tradition is still racism. Now, in A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines, gives us a voice from the other side of the tracks.
Grant Wiggins is a young man in the south, during the days of "Separate but Equal". He's six years out of University, a little too educated for most white folks' taste, but he keeps his learning in line by teaching at the black school in the quarter (short for ex-slave quarters) on the old plantation where he lives with his Aunt. He's resigned himself to his fate. He knows the rules and he plays by them. He ends sentences addressed to white men with "sir", and he doesn't look a white man in the eyes unless the white man is speaking to him. He'd be angry if he thought it wasn't pointless.
Then comes along an event that changes everything. Not so much his world, as much as the way that he sees it. His old Aunt's friend's godson, has the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This puts him on trial for the murder of a white man. His court appointed defense attorney appeals to the jury of 12 white men, that Jefferson, guilty though he may be, should not be put to death. "What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this." Even with such a strong argument, the jury gives him the death penalty.
These are the words that changed the course of Grant Wiggins' life. Jefferson's godmother wants "the teacher make him know he's not a hog, he's a man. I want him know that 'fore he go to that chair...".
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