Hill, Ernest 1961(?)–
HILL, Ernest 1961(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1961, in Oak Grove, LA; son of Charley (a teacher, coach, and factory supervisor) and Katie (a teacher) Hill. Education: Attended Northeast Louisiana University; University of California, Berkeley, bachelor's degree (social science); Cornell University, M.A. (African studies); University of California, Los Angeles, Ph.D.
CAREER: Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, writer-in-residence.
AWARDS, HONORS: Dorothy Danforth Compton doctoral fellowship.
A Life for a Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Cry Me a River, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2003.
It's All about the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Louisiana native Ernest Hill, a writer-in-residence at Southern University, is the author of novels that explore the African-American experience. His self-published debut, Satisfied with Nothin', concerns Jamie Ray Griffin, a young black man from a small Louisiana town who becomes one of the first students to integrate the local high school. His talents on the football field earn him the respect of the community and a college scholarship, but a knee injury in college ends his dreams of a professional career. Jamie's bitterness is fueled by the prejudice he faces and the injustices he witnesses, including a horrific lynching involving his cousin. "The brutal honesty of the characters' circumstances, emotions and realistic experiences make this an exceptional literary piece," remarked Booklist critic Lillian Lewis. Philadelphia Tribune contributor Kevin Omo Oni wrote that Satisfied with Nothin' "probes deeply into some of America's most severe societal banes—racism, complacency, and despondency."
An ultimatum leads to tragedy in A Life for a Life, Hill's 1998 novel. When a drug dealer kidnaps the younger brother of fifteen-year-old D'Ray Reid, D'Ray has one hour to pay the one hundred-dollar ransom. Desperate, the teen robs a convenience store, fatally wounding the clerk, a bright, young African American named Stanley Earl. While serving a life sentence for the crime, D'Ray is visited by Henry Earl, the father of the murder victim, who over time becomes a father figure to D'Ray. Henry "transcends the anger and despair he feels over his son's death," noted Mary A. McCay in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He gives D'Ray "the opportunity to stand in Stanley's place, to go to college, to make something of life, as Stanley would have, and it is the opportunity for redemption." In A Life for a Life, Hill "has a sure hand with pacing and he renders pitch-perfect dialogue that instantly establishes character and fuels the plot with tension," noted a critic in Publishers Weekly. Though some critics faulted the book's sentimental ending, others praised the conclusion. As Fran Handman noted in the New York Times Book Review, "Despite Henry Earl's iron determination, D'Ray's redemption is far from a forgone conclusion."
Cry Me a River, published in 2003, focuses on Tyrone Stokes, a former drug addict who is released on parole after spending ten years in a Louisiana prison. He arrives home to find that his seventeen-year-old son, Marcus, is on death row for the rape and murder of a white girl. Although the execution is only eight days away, Tyrone is determined to prove his son's innocence. He begins his own investigation, assisted by an old friend, Beggar Man, and soon discovers evidence that casts doubt on Marcus's conviction. Stokes risks his own safety "to end the suffering that his son, wife, and family have endured because of his incarceration," noted Booklist critic Lillian Lewis; at the same time, he must "come to terms with his past … as well as his family's varied reactions to his presence at home and his son's situation—his mother's sadness, his sister's hostility, his estranged wife's grief, and his father-in-law's rage," Susan Larson wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Larson added that Hill "spins the web of family love and resentment with ease."
In 2004 Hill published his fourth novel, It's All about the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining. Maurice Dupree, the story's protagonist, is preparing for his final semester at Louisiana State University and is ready to begin law school, much to the delight of his hard-working parents. Returning to his hometown during semester break, Maurice wrestles with his decision to delay marrying his longtime girlfriend, Omenita, until after he earns his law degree. Reviewing It's All about the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining in Booklist, Vanessa Bush stated that Hill "offers a poignant portrait of a young man at a crossroads in his life," and Larson remarked in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the author "writes simply yet beautifully of the tug of family ties and the pull of great dreams."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 12, 1998, Don O'Briant, "Author Ernest Hill: 'Never Be Satisfied with Nothin''," p. F1; July 18, 2004, Hal Jacobs, "Reading the South," review of It's All about the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining, p. L5.
Booklist, August, 1996, Lillian Lewis, review of Satisfied with Nothin', p. 1881; June 1, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of A Life for a Life, p. 1726; February 15, 2003, Lillian Lewis, review of Cry Me a River, p. 1043; June 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of It's All about the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining, p. 1700.
Chicago Independent Bulletin, September 12, 1996, Hurley Green, Sr., "Shifting Scenes: Opportunities Lost," review of Satisfied with Nothin', p. 4.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of Cry Me a River, p. 334.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Shirley Gibson Coleman, review of A Life for a Life, p. 136.
New York Amsterdam News, December 24, 1997, Yusef Salaam, "Ernest Hill's Satisfied with Nothin'," p. 28.
New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1998, Fran Handman, review of A Life for a Life, p. 63.
Philadelphia Tribune, October 25, 1996, Kevin Omo Oni, review of Satisfied with Nothin', p. 11.
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 1996, review of Satisfied with Nothin', p. 43; June 15, 1998, review of A Life for a Life, p. 43.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), January 19, 1997, Mary A. McCay, "Dead End Zone," review of Satisfied with Nothin', p. D7; September 6, 1998, Mary A. McCay, "'Life' Class," review of A Life for a Life, p. D6; May 11, 2003, Susan Larson, "Redemption Song," review of Cry Me a River, p. 7; July 4, 2004, Susan Larson, "Home Truths," review of It's All about the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining, p. 4.