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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Narrated by: Tonya Jordan
Length: 8 hrs and 11 mins
4 out of 5 stars (138 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This is a novel in the guise of the tape-recorded recollections of a black woman who has lived 110 years, who has been both a slave and a witness to the black militancy of the 1960s. In this woman, Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner's Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury. Miss Jane Pittman, like Dilsey, has "endured", has seen almost everything and foretold the rest.
©1971 Bantam Books (P)1996 by Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Gaines' novel brings to mind other great works: The Odyssey, for the way his heroine's travels manage to summarize the American history of her race; and Huckleberry Finn for the clarity of her voice, for her rare capacity to sort through the mess of years and things to find the one true story of it all." (Newsweek)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • West Granby, CT, USA
  • 11-11-08

At great listen

This was such a lovely account of a time we no longer want to think of as part of america. The story tells a sad story with a main charater that has such a positive attitude we could all learn from.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting But Ordinary

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a post-civil war fictionalized autobiography. It follows the life of 110 year old Jane Pittman as she narrates the experience of being a former slave after  the civil war ends until the civil right area. When first published in the 1970s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman might have a fresh look into the lives for the formerly enslaved and their fight for equality. Unfortunately, the book does not stand the test of time and Miss Jane Pittman's story seems common to those with knowledge of Black History after the Civil War. It doesn't help the narrative that Miss Pittman herself is somewhat a reluctant narrative and doesn't feel that her story is special. Jane Pittman gives readers brief glimpses into events that she felt were important in her life and shaped who she was, and as noted before these events were rather common. The only unique factor of Gaines’ fictionalized autobiography is the location of Louisiana. It was interesting to notice the differences and similarities in the life experience of the formerly enslaved and there descents in Louisiana when compared to other parts of the South.  But over The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a victim of time and by modern but standards is underwhelming and offers very few new revelations.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A classic

I remember when this first came out. I believe the movie came out first with Cecily Tyson. She was wonderful as were her makeup artists aging her from a young woman 110 year old.

It was a made for TV movie that one of my Junior High teachers illegally taped because he thought it was so important to show us.

I was extremely glad he did. I am also glad I reread it nearly five decades later. It still has a lot to say about our society.

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Why did I wait so long?

I cannot believe I waited until I was 52 to read this (ok, listen to) this book. I was captivated from the very beginning. I’m just sorry it isn’t a true story. Miss Jane Pittman is an interesting character that “lived” through incredible times. Many of the things she discusses in her “autobiography” sound as though they are steeped in truth (the “high water of 27” for example and the Frenchman that built the first levees). I would love to learn more about the area and the period. However, if Miss Jane and her posse aren’t there in the history books, it just wouldn’t be as much fun learning that history. I wouldn’t have a vested interest. I wouldn’t be as interested in learning about the general history of an area or era as I would be in following the history of a particular family of individual through time.

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  • Mary
  • Raleigh, NC
  • 03-23-16

Great Read

My students were inspired by the story. It corresponded well with our current history studies.

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great read for 2015

this book was relevant and intriguing, and listening to it now seemed so timely it was scary. the Confederate battle flag that is the talk of the year is surely an un mentioned character. .. and you want to believe the war wasn't about slavery? Listen to this amazing women who I wish I could have met her

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Important read

Time well spent, I enjoyed the intricate details even from the earliest stages of life recalled by this 100+ Woman!!!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Excellent Story

What did you love best about The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman?

I really enjoyed this book. The story was compelling and the narration was very good. However, there were jumps and skips in the recording that were very discordant to the listening.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Nina
  • Arlington, VA, USA
  • 06-14-06

Needs an editor!

I wish I could have seen this play with Cicely Tyson in the 60's. I'm sure it was edited time-wise and very powerful. It's still a good story, and may be a true story, but the unabridged version sort of rambles, and is a few hours too long.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

So good it seems true

I have seen this in film form but had forgotten about it until I started to hear the story and remembered bits and pieces of it. I actually thought this was a true story because of how realistically it is told ad how the accounts just seem so on par with history. However, it is not a true story, despite it saying it is an autobiography, it is just as if the fictional character is being interviewed.

Jane Pittman starts her story out about how she grew up in slavery and was there when slaves were able to receive their freedom, though they weren't completely free even i they were. She is a little girl of about nine at this point and talks about the run0ins with the KKK before they were called as such and how she helped save a little boy that she started to treat as if he was her own son.

The whole book is so very good but really sad too. It really makes you see how awful life in the south was like for slaves and black people in the 1800s through the mid 1900s, since Miss Jane Pittman is telling this story as living over one hundred years!

I love how this was told, sincerely.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful