Renowned black author gives reading at LaPlace library

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Louisiana-bred author Ernest Hill paid a visit to LaPlace last week, stopping at the main branch of the St. John Public Library to read from and sign copies of his latest work, “Family Ties.”

Hill, who has the kind of presence that captures one’s attention, prefaced the reading with tales of growing up in Oak Grove, a town of 2,000 near Monroe. He said many of his fondest memories come from sitting on the front porch.

“When I was a little boy one of the greatest joys I had in life was the front porch. On that porch I was privileged enough to listen to the old stories,” said Hill. “Books came from the front porch.”

Drawing comparisons to other African-American authors such as Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hill’s stories are rooted in family and faith. His very career choice, in fact, seems inspired by both of his parents.

“Daddy loved the story,” he said. “Momma loved the book.”

Just as he learned his love of writing from his family, he also learned the true meaning of faith from them.

Hill spoke of his grandmother, who told him the story of the murder of his Uncle Jimmy. Hill said even though his uncle’s murderer lived near his grandmother, she said she would offer him food if he were hungry because she lived by two simple words: don’t hate.

“As I became a man, I realized the power of those words,” he said. “I wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world what faith was.”

Whether telling a story off the top of his head or reading from one of his six novels, Hill’s passion and animation kept the audience entranced.

The event was organized by St. John the Baptist Parish Division A Councilman-at-Large Lucien Gauff, who said he met Hill at another book-signing event a few years ago.

Hill will be making a similar appearance tonight at 7 p.m. at the Roland Borne Sr. Memorial Library in Edgard.