Gaines published his first short story in 1956. Since then he has written eight books. A Lesson Before Dying won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also been awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant, for writings of "rare historical resonance."
Louisiana is a southeastern U.S. state on the Gulf of Mexico. Its history as a melting pot of French, African, American and French-Canadian cultures is reflected in its Creole and Cajun cultures. The largest city, New Orleans, is known for its colonial-era French Quarter, raucous Mardi Gras festival, jazz music, Renaissance-style St. Louis Cathedral and wartime exhibits at the huge National WWII Museum.