Sunday, March 18, 2018

LSU Press offers butterflies and German Coast recipes

It’s difficult to imagine a “German Coast” in Louisiana with parish names like St. Charles and St. John the Baptist, but the region upriver from New Orleans housed a settlement of German immigrants as far back as 1719. Several of my ancestors landed there, evolving from Friedrichs to Frederics in only a generation so it’s easy for people to imagine these areas as being strictly French.

Nancy Tregre Wilson, who owned and operated with her husband and parents Louisiana Gourmet Enterprises Inc., a food specialty business that produced the Mam Papaul’s brand of dinner and cake mixes, hails from the German Coast. She titles her new book, “Memere’s Country Creole Cookbook: Recipes and Memories from Louisiana’s German Coast.” Memere (I so wish I could add accents on this blog) relates to Tregre’s French and German great-grandmother, Nellie (pronounced Na’lee) Schexnayder Zeringue, all good German names. Inside are lots of recipes, from deer sausage and tomato mayonnaise sandwiches to crab cakes and alligator sauce piquante. Each recipe includes a remembrance as fascinating as the dish. I loved learning about blackbird jambalaya and Mississippi River shrimp.

Wilson’s other books include “Mam Papaul’s Country Creole Basket,” “Louisiana’s Italians, Food, and Folkways,” and “Lorraine Gendron: Louisiana Folk Artist.”

Also by LSU Press is Craig Marks’ “Butterflies of Louisiana: A Guide to Identification and Location.” This fat guidebook comes loaded with color photos and great detailed information, including host plants, sightings, seasons to find certain species and the author’s personal records. Marks also breaks down butterflies by parish and regions and cites specific places to find certain butterflies. It’s a fabulous comprehensive guide but because it’s specific to the state, readers won’t have to dig through pages of specimens that don’t pertain to our area.

Marks is a member of the Lepidopterist Society, the Southern Lepidopterist Society, and the North American Butterfly Association, and the author of many articles on butterflies.

For information on LSU Press books and to see what titles will be released next, visit

Louisiana Book News is written by award-winning author Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes romances and mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her first book in each series is FREE to download as an ebook, including "A Ghost of a Chance," the first Viola Valentine mystery. Chere also loves taking photos of butterflies in her Louisiana garden, and now she can identify them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Southern Review 2018 winter issue now available

The Southern Review’s winter 2018 issue features fiction, essays and poetry from all manner of snowy locales, including Jill Osier’s poetic view of Alaska; Barrett Swanson’s snowy holidayscape in “The Live Ones”; and James Arthur’s poem “Hundred Acre Wood,” which describes a father walking through a wintry Michigan with his infant son. All three evoke the season—and provide great reading for a cold winter’s day.

The winter issue also offers two very different takes on historic fiction: Cary Holladay, who first published with the journal 25 years ago, shares “Carbon Tet,” a piece set in rural Virginia circa 1910; while first-time contributor Lailee Mendelson writes about Russia immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain in “So, the Cold War Is Over.”

Nonfiction writing features Debra Spark’s “Finish It, Finish It: Options for Ending a Story,” a compelling mix of personal memoir and craft talk, and Michael Down’s “Jim at 2 AM” a hilarious and heartfelt portrait of the author’s wayward neighbor.

The issue includes new poems by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Stephen Dunn, as well as a pair of densely woven meditations by Jane Springer, whose previous contribution to the journal (“Walk,” autumn 2015) won a Pushcart Prize. Christine Poreba writes about the immigrant experience in her suite of poems, while Chris Dombrowski’s long poem “Going Home” explores how the ripples of a friend’s murder affects the landscape of his youth.

The artwork of German artist Sibylle Peretti is also featured. Her innovative use of cast glass tiles and sculpture creates landscapes and portraits at once delicate and magnificent: close inspection of the glass surface reveals the artist’s hand in her precise engraving, silver and gold leaf applications, and painting.

The winter issue is now available for purchase online at

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tuesday Ebook Spotlight: A Cajun Dream

For this week only, my award-winning novel, "A Cajun Dream," part of the Cajun Series of historical romances, is only 99 cents at I wrote this book in 1999, during Louisiana's FrancoFete, or 300th anniversary celebration. At the time it was a stand-alone novel but I was asked to write a novella as a follow-up and then a longer series, so I decided to tie them all together as one family. 

The Cajun Series begins now with "Emilie" and continues with three more historical romances until "A Cajun Dream," but each book stands alone. 

Here's the book description:  
Spurned by the Americans living in the South Louisiana town of Franklin because of her Catholic upbringing, and forbidden to associate with the French Creoles and Cajuns by her father, Amanda Rose Richardson believes she is destined to become an old maid. When she finds herself in a compromised situation by the town rogue, it is her good friend René Comeaux, the darkly handsome and passionate Cajun who rescues her. Unbeknown to Amanda, René has been in love with her for months. But can René convince her father his intentions are honorable and win the heart of the "Jolie Blonde" he adores? 

You can read a preview here.

Here's what others have said about my novel:

"A Cajun Dream will bring a smile to readers' faces. Ms. Claire has captured the sweetness of falling in love the first time with the gentleness of Dorothy Garlock and the tenderness of Pamela Morsi." — Maria C. Ferrer for Romantic Times magazine

"What a marvelous debut! Cherie Claire is sure to earn a bevy of fans with this charming and heartwarming tale." — Rexanne Becnel, author of "Blink of An Eye" 

And if you do want to start at the beginning, "Emilie" is FREE to download. In fact, the first book in all my series is a FREE ebook.

Louisiana Book News is written by award-winning author Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes romances and mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her first book in each series is FREE to download as an ebook, including "Emilie," the first book in the Cajun historical series, "Ticket to Paradise," the first book of The Cajun Embassy series and "A Ghost of a Chance," the first Viola Valentine mystery.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tuesday Ebook Spotlight: 'The Last Suppers'

MARCH 12, 2018 UPDATE: "The Last Suppers" is now on sale for $2.99 at online bookstores.

Mandy Mikulencak, author of award-winning young-adult and adult fiction, sets her latest novel in 1950s Louisiana.

Here’s the book description:

“The Last Suppers” evokes both “The Help” and “Dead Man Walking” with the story of an unforgettable woman whose quest to provide meals for death row prisoners leads her into the secrets of her own past.

Many children have grown up in the shadow of Louisiana’s Greenmount State Penitentiary. Most of them—sons and daughters of corrections officers and staff—left the place as soon as they could. Yet Ginny Polk chose to come back to work as a prison cook. She knows the harsh reality of life within those walls—the cries of men being beaten, the lines of shuffling inmates chained together. Yet she has never seen them as monsters, not even the ones sentenced to execution. That’s why, among her duties, Ginny has taken on a special responsibility: preparing their last meals.

Pot roast or red beans and rice, coconut cake with seven-minute frosting or pork neck stew . . . whatever the men ask for Ginny prepares, even meeting with their heartbroken relatives to get each recipe just right. It’s her way of honoring their humanity, showing some compassion in their final hours. The prison board frowns upon the ritual, as does Roscoe Simms, Greenmount’s Warden. Her daddy’s best friend before he was murdered, Roscoe has always watched out for Ginny, and their friendship has evolved into something deep and unexpected. But when Ginny stumbles upon information about the man executed for killing her father, it leads to a series of dark and painful revelations.

Truth, justice, mercy—none of these are as simple as Ginny once believed. And the most shocking crimes may not be the ones committed out of anger or greed, but the sacrifices we make for love.

New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs says this of the novel: “A gorgeous novel that finds beauty in the most unlikely of places.”

Louisiana Book News is written by award-winning author Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes romances and mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her first book in each series is FREE to download as an ebook, including "A Ghost of a Chance," the first Viola Valentine mystery.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What does it mean to 'Dress Like a Woman'?

When I was young, I desperately tried to wear appropriate outfits: the shoes that gave a lift even though I suffered with high arches, matching blouses to skirts the right way (society had rules for color matchings), dresses that didn’t make me look like a potato sack. Add to the fact my makeup challenges and dressing remained a constant struggle. I was attempting to follow the social mores of the time —not to mention what my mother expected of me — and I failed over and over again.

Slowly, I rebelled. My feet ached from high heels and pointed toes so they were the first to go. Makeup produced powerful headaches so I had an excuse to give that one up, having to utter “I’m allergic” time and again to others who found it an affront that I wasn’t wearing any. I read an article about Katherine Hepburn who stated early in her career that she didn’t like dresses so she only wore pants. I thought, if Katherine Hepburn can do it, so can I, and I never looked back.

Why, I always wondered, did it matter what I wore to work if the job’s getting done?

A new book asks this question as well. “Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore” showcases women in all walks of life working in both what is expected of them, what makes them comfortable, what their profession demands and some that rebel against convention. There are women in lumberyards, shelling peas and harvesting crops, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles in action and German actress Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo. A journalist in 1917 wears a dress atop a roof to catch a photograph while Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only female assistant surgeon during the Civil War, poses with her Medal of Honor in a man’s suit.  And then there are my personal favorites, the Rosie Riveters and other women during World War II, performing jobs men could not and beginning what was to become the feminist movement, along with photos of leaders such as Hillary Clinton, activist Janet Mock at the 2017 Women’s March, Malala Yousafzai, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.

The book also shows examples of how dress codes restricted a woman’s job. A photo depicts New York City policewoman scaling a barricade, one in a dress and another in pants. Guess who’s having trouble? It took to 1979 for the city to rescind requirements for women to wear skirts, gloves and to carry a handbag.

The book’s foreword by Roxane Gay explains how restrictions for women’s dress were often detailed, down to how stockings were worn and makeup applied. Many of those requirements continue today; Pres. Donald Trump insisted that female members of his administration “dress like women.”

“You will see (in the book) how dress has evolved as the role of women in contemporary society has evolved,” Gay writes in the foreword. “And you will see that sometimes, dressing like a woman means wearing a pantsuit; other times, it means wearing a wetsuit, or overalls, or a lab coat, or a police uniform. Dressing like a woman means wearing anything a woman deems appropriate and necessary for getting her job done.”

And sometimes it means reading about other women for the courage to wear what you want. I haven’t worn a dress in years, and I doubt I ever will.

"Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore"
Published by Abrams Image
Foreword by Roxane Gay
Introduction by Vanessa Friedman

Louisiana Book News is written by award-winning author Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes romances and mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire in her home office, many times in pajamas and slippers. Her first book in each series is FREE to download as an ebook, including "A Ghost of a Chance," the first Viola Valentine mystery.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Two mid-March book events examine Louisiana culture.

Two mid-March book events examine Louisiana culture.

March 13
John Laudun discusses his book "The Amazing Crawfish Boat" at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, the downtown branch of the Lafayette Public Library, 301 W. Congress, Lafayette. The event is part of the Bayou State Book Talks, a monthly discussion series led by Louisiana authors and co-sponsored by the Center for Louisiana Studies, UL Lafayette and the Lafayette Public Library System.

In any given year, the Louisiana crawfish harvest tops 50,000 tons. Laudun chronicles the development of an amphibious boat that transformed the Louisiana prairies into a powerhouse of aquaculture alongside agriculture. In seeking to understand how such a machine came into being, the author describes the ideas and traditions that have long been a part of the landscape and how they converged at a particular time to create a new economic opportunity for both the rice farmers who used them and the fabricators who made them.

Laudun is the Doris H. Meriwether/BORSF Endowed Professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His work has appeared in African American Review, Journal of American Folklore, and other scholarly journals, and his expertise has been cited in the New York Times and many other national outlets.

The author will have books available for purchase and signing.

March 14

University of Chicago doctoral candidate William Buckingham will speak on “Remembering Isleno Decimas: Louisiana’s Lost Tradition of Spanish Ballad Singing” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the Acadian Cultural Center, 501 Fisher Road, Lafayette. The event is being sponsored by the Center for Louisiana Studies, in partnership with the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

Buckingham’s research centers on the Isleno decima, a unique genre of Spanish folk song from St. Bernard Parish in southeast Louisiana. Louisiana's Hispanic heritage is a significant, if often forgotten, facet of the state’s cultural mixture. An introductory overview of this heritage will provide context for close listening and analysis of some examples of recorded decimas. This rich and diverse repertory attests to both ancient origins in medieval Spanish romances, brought by colonists from the Canary Islands in the 18th century, as well as more recent influences from both a regional circum-Gulf Hispanic culture and a rich local multicultural milieu. Today, the decima is no longer vital as a musical practice, resulting from the decline of the unique dialect of Isleno Spanish, decades of land loss, hurricanes, and the decline of the communities that once sustained the tradition. In closing, Buckingham will consider the significance of these recent developments within the broader context of Louisiana's diverse cultural heritage and unfolding ecological crisis.

Doors open at 6 pm and the presentation will begin at 6:30 pm.

Louisiana Book News is written by award-winning author Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes romances and mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her first book in each series is FREE to download as an ebook, including "A Ghost of a Chance," the first Viola Valentine mystery.