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Books - To - Movies: Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Updated: Apr 26



As far as 'Jane Pittman,' I don't know that I could verbalize, to this day, what I felt once I got into that role. I did a tremendous amount of research. I need to feel as though I am in the person's skin.

-Cicely Tyson


This past week, we lost a significant African-American actress: Cicely Tyson. She passed away at the age of 96.


Why am I talking about an actress?


Cicely Tyson was not just an actress. She brought pivotal characters from such classic books as Sounder by William H. Armstrong and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines to life.


She also played Harriet Tubman in the TV series A Woman Called Moses in 1978.


She was the epitome of Girl Power!


Cicely Tyson should be talked about and admired for her accomplishments: She was nominated for the Academy of Award for Sounder and won the Emmy for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Those are two accomplishments from her long career.


As a young girl who was always reading, I never knew of Sounder or The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman until I saw Cicely Tyson on my television. I was a reader like I said, but Ms. Tyson and the rest of the cast drew me into these two stories on a visual level.


As we know, some young ladies are visual and auditory learners who struggle with reading a printed book, and the movie versions can help them.


I believe the Book - To - Movies that are considered classics can benefit all readers because, let's be real-- the classics can be boring to read. This is not an insult to any authors (especially Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Gaines). But, I am saying this as I look through the lens of our youth. They want excitement and immediate gratification.


There are some pitfalls to the Book - To - Movie genre. The pitfalls occur when the movie is not like the book, or there were some artistic choices that the film director made that veered off a little from the book.


If someone actually read the book and then watched the film to analyze both for a more in-depth discussion, they will surely be disappointed if the movie fails to be true to the book. But, to me, that can make the discussion more interesting.


This blog post serves as an introduction to sharing books that were adapted into movies.


I will be sharing more Books - To - Movies in the future.


In the meantime, if you have a chance to read the books and watch the films Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, please do so.


Sounder by William H. Armstrong


The Newbery Medal–winning classic novel about the courage and faith—and the love of a dog—that give a family strength in the face of inhumanity. This middle grade novel is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 5 to 6, especially during homeschooling. It’s a fun way to keep your child entertained and engaged while not in the classroom.


The boy knows that times are tough for his family. Every night, his father goes out hunting with their great coon dog, Sounder, to try to put food on the table. But even with the little they bring back, there is still never enough for the family to eat.


When the boy awakens one morning to a sweet-smelling ham on the table, it seems like a blessing. But soon, the sheriff and his deputies come to the house and take the boy’s father away in handcuffs. Suddenly the boy must grow up fast in a world that isn’t fair, keeping hope alive through the love he has for his father’s faithful dog, Sounder.


The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines


"This is a novel in the guise of the tape-recorded recollections of a black woman who has lived 110 years, who has been both a slave and a witness to the black militancy of the 1960's. In this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner's Dilsey in The Sound And The Fury." Miss Jane Pittman, like Dilsey, has 'endured,' has seen almost everything and foretold the rest. Gaines' novel brings to mind other great works The Odyssey for the way his heroine's travels manage to summarize the American history of her race, and Huckleberry Finn for the clarity of her voice, for her rare capacity to sort through the mess of years and things to find the one true story in it all." -- Geoffrey Wolff, Newsweek.


"Stunning. I know of no black novel about the South that excludes quite the same refreshing mix of wit and wrath, imagination and indignation, misery and poetry. And I can recall no more memorable female character in Southern fiction since Lena of Faulkner's Light In August than Miss Jane Pittman." -- Josh Greenfeld, Life




















William H. Armstrong Biography


Born in Collierstown, Va., Mr. Armstrong graduated from Hampden-Sydney College and later attended the University of Virginia. He wove the stories of his childhood in the Shenandoah Valley into ''Sounder'' and three other novels, ''Sour Land,'' ''The MacLeod Place'' and ''The Mills of God.'' The unnamed boy in ''Sounder'' and later, the teacher Moses Waters in ''Sour Land,'' grew from the tales Mr. Armstrong heard as a boy from Charles Jones, a schoolteacher who worked afternoons and summers for Mr. Armstrong's father. Epic in form, ''Sounder'' had neither place nor family names. ''With names they would represent one family,'' Mr. Armstrong wrote. ''Without names they become universal -- representing all people who suffer privation and injustice, but through love, self-respect, devotion and desire for improvement, make it in the world.''




Ernest J. Gaines Biography


Ernest James Gaines was born January 15, 1933, on River Lake Plantation in Oscar, a small town in Pointe Coupee Parish, near New Roads, Louisiana. The oldest of twelve children, he was raised by his great-aunt, Augusteen Jefferson, who provided the inspiration for Miss Jane Pittman, as well as other strong black female characters, such as Miss Emma and Tante Lou in Lesson. Gaines' birthplace serves as the model for his fictional world of Bayonne and St. Raphael Parish. With the exception of his fourth novel, In My Father's House, all of Gaines' fictional work is set in Bayonne. Although he has spent much of his life since age fifteen in San Francisco, he writes exclusively about life in the South. He is perhaps best known for his 1971 novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which was made into a TV movie and won several Emmys. In May 1999, HBO debuted its made-for-television movie of A Lesson Before Dying.

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