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“I like to tell the truth as I see it. That’s why literature is so important. We cannot possibly leave it to history…to tell the story of our people. It’s not a ladder we are climbing, it’s literature we’re producing, and there will always be someone to read it.”

–Nikki Giovanni

As quoted from gifted author, poet and Virginia Tech professor Nikki Giovanni, “literature is so important.” Words equal life to the reader, and some of the most beautiful pieces of literary work ever created can be credited to African American authors. Which books make my Top Ten list?

Today’s Favorite Book is “A Lesson Before Dying,” by Ernest J. Gaines. The novel features Jefferson, a young man condemned to die for a crime he did not commit. A community teacher, Grant Wiggins, is charged to educate Jefferson before his execution, which is just months away. Gaines paints a compelling portrait of the two men, locked in a struggle to obtain the dignity of manhood, before it’s too late.

“A Lesson Before Dying” was a featured selection of Oprah’s Book Club, and a made-for-TV movie, based on the novel, premiered in 1999, starring Don Cheadle, Cicely Tyson, and Mekhi Phifer. The movie garnered praise from critics, and helped to re-introduce the public to this outstanding novel and its celebrated author, Ernest Gaines.

Click to take a look inside this novel…

S. Willis is a native Virginian. She is the author of a children’s book, “The Little Adventures of Bella and DJ,” which will be released Spring 2011 (visit www.WordsByWillis.com to pre-order).

Want to recommend a book for S. Willis to review? Email your suggestions to: Samantha@wordsbywillis.com.