NATCHITOCHES – Authors Ernest Gaines and Kent Wascom along with Team Slam New Orleans will present readings at Northwestern State University this fall. Admission to each event is free and open to the public.
Wascom will present a reading Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Fleming Thomas and Jean D’Amato Thomas Reading Room. Wascom is the author of the novel “The Blood of Heaven.”
A New Orleans native, Wascom received a bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University and a M.F.A. from Florida State. He was the 2012 winner of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize for Fiction judged by Amy Hempel. “The Blood of Heaven,” which is his first novel was released in June. Critics are comparing Wascom to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. He will also give a fiction writing workshop for interested NSU students earlier in the day.
Team Slam New Orleans, the winner of the National Poetry Slam championship for the past two years, will put on a performance Saturday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. The group will hold a special coaching session for the Brainy Acts Poetry Society at NSU earlier in the day.
Author Ernest Gaines will speak and read from his work on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. in the Friedman Student Union Ballroom. Gaines will be introduced by former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque.
Gaines is among the most widely read and respected contemporary authors of African-American fiction. He was born in Pointe Coupee Parish in Louisiana and at age 15 Gaines moved to California, joining his mother and stepfather there, because his Louisiana parish had no high school for African Americans.
After graduating high school and serving in the Army, Gaines enrolled in San Francisco State University where he began publishing in the university’s quarterly literary journal. These stories secured him a place in Stanford University’s graduate program for creative writing. After leaving Stanford, he settled in the San Francisco area.
His novel, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” was published in 1971 and made into a television movie which won nine Emmy Awards. In 1983, he published “A Gathering of Old Men,” which was also adapted for television. Ten years later, he wrote “A Lesson Before Dying,” which was adapted for television in 1999 and is one of his most critically acclaimed novels.
Gaines won numerous awards including the Louisiana Humanist of the Year and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1993. In 2000, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal and was made a Chevalier (Knight) of the French Order of Arts and Letters. That year, he was also named the first recipient of the Louisiana Writer Award.
The reading is funded through a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents Support Fund. The grant awarded to Julie Kane of the Department of Language and Communication and former faculty member James Crank allows Northwestern State to bring speakers, artists or scholars to campus to address students and faculty and participate in classes.