Alum Ernest Gaines: Author's Award Highlights New Generation of Black Writers

Thursday, January 22, 2015
THE ROOT -- At 16, frustrated by the portrayal of blacks by white writers, Gaines decided to write his own book. He scrawled it in longhand and then persuaded his mother to rent a typewriter. “I cut the paper in half because that was the size of a book,” he said. “I typed on both sides of the paper, because that’s how books were printed. Every mistake you could possibly make, I made.” He wrapped the novel and sent it to a New York publisher. “I’m sure they thought it was a bomb,” he said. “They sent it back and I threw it in the incinerator.” He enrolled at San Francisco State College, then did graduate work in creative writing at Stanford University. When he left Stanford in 1957, he gave himself a deadline: 10 years to make it as a writer. Casting about for ideas, he remembered the book he had written at 16, about a black man, a Creole woman and the strict barrier between their two cultures. In 1964 he published a much reworked version of that novel, “Catherine Carmier.”