Ernest Gaines was born in 1933 on the River Lake Plantation, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Although he was educated in California (at San Francisco State College and Stanford University) and currently lives in San Francisco, his fiction is dominated by images and characters drawn from rural Louisiana, where he was born and raised. In recounting the struggle of African Americans to, in his words, escape the influence of the past and just? be men, Gaines has skillfully crafted a small, but powerful body of modern American fiction. Unquestionably the best-known and probably the best, of Gainess novels is The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), a fictional account of the long life of a black woman born a slave on a Louisiana plantation. Through the stories of the many fascinating people who touch Janes life, Gaines presents not only a moving perspective on the struggles of African Americans but also a social history of the United States since the Civil War. It is a testimony to Gainess skill as a writer and storyteller that many people believe Jane Pittman was a real person. Indeed, the novel is frequently misshelved in the biography section of bookstores. Of Gainess other works, Bloodline (1976), a collection of five short stories, stands out for its powerful portrayals of young men in search of self-respect and dignity. His lnovel A Lesson Before Dying, won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award.