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Word Count: 738
A Gathering of Old Men by the noted novelist Ernest J Gaines was first published in 1983 I wish I had known it then Last week I stumbled across a 1992 edition published by Vintage Books at Borders on a table set aside for black authors His most celebrated novel is The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman A Gathering is a remarkable mystery about a young white woman and 17 old black men in an isolated Louisiana parish each of whom confess to the murder of a brutal Cajun farmer and who shoot their 12-gauge shotguns and bring them to the scene of the murder to prove their guilt After a submissive lifetime of just keeping out of trouble even at the cost of losing their dignity these old men now want to do something worthwhile with their lives Gaines novel is all dialogue presented through the voices of these individuals The author who grew up in Louisiana and now teaches literature there portrays the language of these men accurately and lovingly The acts of the men whose grandparents were slaves bridges the generations from the old South to the new It also hints at the difficulty blacks and whites have in understanding each other The integration of the two races is the most remarkable event of the second half of this century surpassed only by two world wars in its significance And yet how deeply are we integrated How well do we really know each other I thought of this as I read A Gathering of Old Men I thought of growing up on a farm in the deep South There were perhaps 15 tenants on the place in two small houses As children black or white we played together We took off our clothes every stitch and went swimming in Tosity Creek and caught catfish in the creek and cut whistles from hickory sticks There was my brother and I and Tammy and
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