LPL American Heritages Book Club
A Gathering of Old Men (1983)by Ernest Gaines It begins with a murder on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s. Beau Boutan, a
A Gathering of Old Men (1983)
by Ernest Gaines
It begins with a murder on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s. Beau Boutan, a hated Cajun farmer, is shot. Immediately, we learn that something even more serious has taken place. Candy Marshall, the headstrong white owner of the plantation, tells everyone she shot Beau, imploring them to believe her, though no one will. Before she calls the sheriff, however, Candy has gathered more than a dozen aging black men with just-fired shotguns and each in turn claiming he shot Beau. What unfolds is a powerful depiction of racial tensions in the South.
Ernest J. Gaines (1933-2019) Ernest James Gaines was born on January 15, 1933, in Oscar, Louisiana, the oldest of seven children. His parents, Manuel and Adrienne Gaines, were sharecroppers. As a young boy, Gaines worked alongside his parents in the fields, an experience that would inform his fiction and develop his deep understanding of and sympathy for the working people of the Depression-era South. His aunt Augusteen Jefferson, who was disabled, cared for young Gaines and his siblings; she became the model for the strong Black women of faith and determination that appear in much of his fiction.
After his parents separated, Gaines joined his mother and stepfather in California and spent two years at Vallejo Junior College. In 1953, Gaines was drafted into the US Army and served in the Pacific during the Korean War. After completing his military service, he registered at San Francisco State College in 1955, publishing his first short story in the college literary magazine the next year. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1957 and won a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University. In 1959, he ended his formal studies and decided to make writing his full-time career.
Gaines’s work is highly regarded by critics for giving voice to the people of southern Louisiana. The lives of his fictional characters intersect with the history of race in America, featuring people of many diverse ethnicities. His recurring themes include the essential worth and dignity of every individual; the often fraught relationships between males, particularly fathers and sons; the strength and courage of generations of Black women in the face of poverty and racism; and the impact of the past upon the present. His fiction is supported by extensive historical research and the imagination to enter the minds of his characters and portray them with sympathy. His accurate ear for southern speech patterns and dialects frequently is praised by critics and is the source of much of the humor in his fiction. Gaines’s work is widely taught in schools and colleges; he has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates that testify to the influence of his work.
Thursday, February 22 at 6pm
or Friday, February 23 at Noon
Available at LPL in print (AAF Gaines),
digitally as an E-Book in Libby, or
an e-audiobook in Hoopla
22 (Thursday) 6:00 pm - 23 (Friday) 1:30 pm