The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman has sold over a million copies nationwide since its publication in 1971, making the fictional character of Miss Jane so real many people don’t know she exists only in the imagination of Louisiana-born author Ernest J. Gaines. Miss Jane is 100 years old when she is interviewed by an area high school teacher looking to teach his students more about plantation society in the Deep South. Her story is not only a vivid picture of the South before the dawn of the civil rights era, but also a story of one woman’s survival against overwhelming odds. A stunning autobiography of a courageous woman who won her battles with grace and dignity. Born a slave and freed when she was 10, Jane leaves the plantation of her childhood and heads in the direction of Ohio, in search of a white abolitionist who once befriended her. Accompanied by Ned, a young orphan, Jane struggles to get out of Louisiana. What happens in the years that follow is a tale of loss and heartache and renewed hope, imprinted on its aged teller’s face like furrows in a russet field. Now, in the racial upheavals of the ’60s, Miss Jane brings closure to one generation, and inspiration to the next.
©1971 Ernest J. Gaines (P)1994 Recorded Books
I am an avid eclectic reader.
February is Black History Month. I usually attempt to read a book about black history or read a book written by a black author or both. This year I decided to read a novel I read back in 1971 when the book first came out. Since then the book has become a classic. A movie was made in 1974 starring Cicely Tyson. I sort of remember the movie was good. I think I shall check to see if Amazon has the movie and will watch it after I finish the book.
The book is fiction but is written in the style of oral history. The author’s brilliantly crafted book interweaves historical references and recollections into an overall framework of the life of a woman born into slavery who survived to the point of the beginning of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The story is told as seen through the eyes of a 110 year old woman who had lived though it all; with simplicity and immense dignity Jane Pittman speaks of the Reconstruction period in the deep South, with its struggles for black self determination and betterment. The constant terror of the Ku Klux Klan to thwart those efforts, and the legacy of racism that white Americans use right up to the present day.
Gaines’s description of the plantation is authentic and spellbinding. The story gripped my attention right from the beginning and kept it throughout the story. This is a book that I enjoyed the first time I read it and have enjoyed it even more on the second reading. Gaines was born on a Louisiana Plantation but was educated at San Francisco State and Stanford University. This is a must read book for everyone. Lynne Thigpen did an excellent job narrating the story.
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