Friday, January 13, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines

Who remembers the movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman? It floated back into my head the other day and I decided to read the original book by Ernest J. Gaines.

The book is written as though it were an autobiography told to the “editor,” but it is actually a novel — a novel that rang so true many thought it was nonfiction.


Jane Pittman is a Black woman born into slavery. She experiences the end of the Civil War and the trials and triumphs of newfound freedom. Her pluck, determination, and innate goodness help her to create a life in Reconstruction-era Louisiana. She sees firsthand the destructive power of racism throughout her long life. Although she doesn’t know exactly how old she is, she figures she is about 110 during the Civil Rights movement. It’s been a longtime coming, and she is ready to take a stand.

This is a fascinating book. Although the ending of the novel does not have the cinematic triumph that I recall (even now) from the movie, the sense of the power of the movement shines through. Published in 1971, its message is as important today as it was 50 years ago.

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