"A Lesson Before Dying" is the story of 1940s Louisiana and a black man on death row. In this powerful exploration of injustice and courage, Gaines brings to light the heroism of those who dared to stand tall during a time when the black community, educated or not, was held in low esteem.
Gaines book was selected as HSU and CR's Book of the Year based on the compelling subject matter and its accessibility to a wide range of readers. The campuses have encouraged faculty to incorporate the Book of the Year into their fall curriculum and recommend the reading to all students.
College of the Redwoods began its Book of the Year Program in 1995 with Barbara Kingsolver's "The Bean Trees," adapting a program at Santa Rosa Junior College. From its modest beginnings at CR, the program grew and in 1996 Book of the Year author Michael Dorris, author of "A Yellow Raft in Blue Water," read his work on campus and several other locations in the community. Visits by other authors followed in the subsequent years of the program. HSU, in a similar program, hosted Greg Sarris, author of "Grand Avenue: A Novel in Stories," and also featured T.C. Boyle's "The Tortilla Curtain" last year.
Organizers from the two campuses also hope to invite Ernest Gaines to the area during the 2006 fall semester. More information on this visit and other events will be forthcoming as semester activities are confirmed.
"Over the years a variety of books have been selected, but whether the author has visited the campus or not, one aspect has been the same," said Pat McCutcheon, current coordinator of the Book of the Year project at CR. "The book is read and discussed throughout the college and across disciplines, in classrooms, certainly, but also over copy machines and brown-bag lunches."