Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18


Select one of these New Orleans-related literary works to read and present to the class:

51iE97DPwzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Brenda Marie Osbey, All Souls: Essential Poems

All Souls: Essential Poems brings together work that reflects the interweaving of history, memory, and the indelible bonds between living and dead that has marked the output of Louisiana Poet Laureate Emerita Brenda Marie Osbey. Comprising poems written and published over the span of four decades, this thematic collection highlights the unity of Osbey’s voice and narrative intent.” OLIVIA

Robert Olen Butler, A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain

41J0sdXRsIL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_ “Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Butler’s fifteen stories, set in the Vietnamese enclaves of suburban New Orleans, capture the voices of people who have lost their homeland and are trying to adapt to an alien culture.”

“A dutiful woman caring for her grandfather’s parrot, a businessman who longs to feel more intensely for his wife, a Saigon whore looking for love in New Orleans, a former spy practicing voodoo on his wife’s new lover, and an old man visited by the ghost of Ho Chi Minh, all are evoked with luminous clarity as their stories reach an epiphany that in some ways touches the very limits of dream and desire.” – Library Journal GWENDOLYN

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, A Kind of Freedom

51Pr6Kva-KL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“This luminous and assured first novel shines an unflinching, compassionate light on three generations of a black family in New Orleans, emphasizing endurance more than damage.” ―The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“Sexton’s first novel is set in New Orleans from the mid-1940s to the city’s ruthless real estate makeover years after Hurricane Katrina. Delivered by three accomplished narrators, the story moves through three generations of a black family, starting with the daughter of a pioneering doctor and his Creole wife, who have set themselves against her marrying the hard-working son of a janitor. This moving debut is ingeniously told in its passage back and forth through lives and changing times.” ―The Washington Post JORDAN

Tom Piazza, City of Refuge

514BHdz2K5L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_“In City of Refuge, a heart-wrenching novel from Tom Piazza, the author of the award-winning Why New Orleans Matters, two New Orleans families—one black and one white—confront Hurricane Katrina, a storm that will change the course of their lives. Reaching across America—from the neighborhoods of New Orleans to Texas, Chicago, and elsewhere—City of Refuge explores this turning point in American culture, one whose reverberations are only beginning to be understood.” FAITH


John Gregory Brown, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery

41ZFN3CRQDL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_“The novel that marked John Gregory’s Brown’s much-heralded debut, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery is a ‘finely wrought tale . . . that unlocks its secrets like a Chinese box, each hidden compartment opening to reveal yet another, until at the end we stand aghast at the complexity that lies before us’ (Richmond Times-Dispatch). This is the heartbreaking story of the Eagens, a New Orleans family of ‘mixed blood,’ as recalled by three unforgettable narrators, each intimately entangled in the family’s small tragedies and betrayals.” SARAH

C. Morgan Babst, The Floating World

61IZtD-Ve8L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Told from the alternating perspectives of the Boisdorés family, C. Morgan Babst’s novel recounts the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s a haunting, beautiful, relentless portrait of the devastation the storm inflicted on a city, and a family – dismantling and fracturing everything in its path. With exacting prose, Babst gets to the heat and heartbeat of New Orleans.” KAYLEIGH


Nathaniel Rich, King Zeno

51xRTgaR3HL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ “Wildly imaginative . . . Stealing the show, though, is the Big Easy, with its distinctive mix of music, race, and history, at a moment when the Spanish Flu and a series of ax murders terrified residents. With an artful blend of humor suspense, and noir, Rich folds facts into a work of fiction that evokes the historical novels of E. L. Doctorow.” ―The National Book Review ANNELISE


John Gregory Brown, A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

Brown_aThousandMiles-revise-660x1024 “…a tale of redemption that is both believably prosaic and incredibly, quietly moving…Brown has a deft way of writing about loss and redemption, at once physical and immediate. The result is palpable, and the relief as Henry once more finds his narrative–the thread that holds his story together–is profound.” — Boston Globe  INGRID