Ernest J. Gaines is an acclaimed African-American writer, author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and other novels that examine history and race in the United States. A Gathering of Old Men is an excellent novel for use with high school students. It tackles many ideas that are otherwise difficult to access while using innovative literary techniques like rotating narrators, dialect, and a stripped-down in medias res style. Students who have read and enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird are capable of managing the book. It is especially interesting for non-Southern students who are used to viewing the south as a monolithic place with incomprehensible racial history and politics.
The packet contains a synthesized history of Louisiana written for students about to read the novel, and six prompt sets and a final that I use for reading evaluation and idea development. These are more involved than multiple choice quizzes but the brief CA prompt style can be scored fairly quickly and has great benefits to young writers.