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Alumni in the News: Mitchell S. Jackson Wins 8th Annual Gaines Award
Author: Press Release
Posted: December 4, 2014

Award Honors Literary Legend Ernest Gaines

BATON ROUGE, La. –The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has named Mitchell S. Jackson winner of the 2014 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for his novel “The Residue Years.” The Ernest Gaines Award ceremony will be held January 22, 2015 at 6:30 PM at the Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge. Doors open at 6:00 PM. The ceremony will include a reading from the winner and a performance by the Irvin Mayfield Quintet. Doors open at 6 pm, and suggested dress is cocktail or business attire. The ceremony and event are free and open to the public, though seating is limited and a ticket is required for entry. For tickets, contact the Manship Theatre at (225) 344-0334 or toll free at (866) 451-2787.

Now in its eighth year, the Gaines Award is a nationally acclaimed, $10,000 annual prize created by foundation donors to honor outstanding work from rising African-American fiction writers while honoring Louisiana native Ernest Gaines’ extraordinary contribution to the literary world.

“The Residue Years,” published in 2013 by Bloomsbury Books, is a semi-autobiographical novel based on Jackson’s experience growing up in Portland, Ore., in a neighborhood ravaged by violence and drug use. It follows a mother and former addict trying to steer her three sons away from drugs.

“The Residue Years” received critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Times of London, Sydney Morning Herald and O, the Oprah Magazine, and was a finalist for the Center For Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for best fiction by a writer of African descent. Jackson’s novel was also considered for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, the Chautauqua Prize, and was named a fiction honor book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Mitchell S. Jackson earned a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and a master’s in creative writing from New York University, where he now teaches. He also earned fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Urban Artists Initiative and The Center For Fiction. His previous honors include the Hurston Wright Foundation award for college writers. In 2012, he published the e-book “Oversoul: Stories and Essays.”

Due to the high number of exceptional entries, several books were short listed for the Gaines Award by the judges.  They are:

“Celestial Blue Skies” by Maggie Collins

“Red Now and Laters” by Marcus J. Guillory

“The Secret of Magic” by Deborah Johnson

“Long Division” by Kiese Laymon

Previous winners of the Ernest J. Gaines award include Attica Locke for “The Cutting Season”, Stephanie Powell Watts for “We Are Taking Only What We Need” and Dinaw Mengestu for “How to Read the Air.”

The national panel of judges for the 2014 Gaines Award are: Thomas Beller, award-winning author and journalist; Anthony Grooms, a critically acclaimed author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; renowned author Elizabeth Nunez, professor of English at Hunter College-City University of New York; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.

Ernest Gaines is a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, La. and became a literary legend and influential American author. He is a 2013 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal and a member of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of publication of his first novel, “Catherine Carmier” and the 40th anniversary of the adaptation of his critically acclaimed novel, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” into a made-for-TV movie in 1974 that won nine Emmy awards.  His novel, “A Lesson Before Dying,” published in 1993, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is one of the Gulf Coast region’s largest community foundations. Winner of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2011 Award for Outstanding Foundation, BRAF connects donors to projects and nonprofit groups, along with investing in and managing community projects. For more information, visit BRAF.org.