Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hochschild peeks into American Right with new book

Award-winning author Arlie Russell Hochschild is a retired professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley, a liberal California town. In her latest book, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” she was desperate to understand the political divide that occurred in America over the past few years and the basis of political beliefs unlike her own. But her ultimate desire in writing the book, a 2016 National Book Award finalist, was to bridge an “empathy wall.”
“In a period of political tumult, we grasp for quick certainties,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “We shoehorn new information into ways we already think. We settle for knowing our opposite numbers from the outside. But is it possible, without changing our beliefs, to know others form the inside, to see reality through their eyes, to understand the links between life, feeling, and politics; that is, to cross the empathy wall? I thought it was.”
Hochschild chose Louisiana for its political paradox. The Tea Party has strong support in our state, voters looking for less government interference and taxation, but at the same time the state ranks high in environmental pollution, poor health care, low life expectancy and education – all things that can be improved upon with government assistance. While Hochschild interviewed Lake Charles victims of extensive industrial pollution, for instance, and others she learns why they vote conservative, be it for religious values, a bad experience with bureaucracy or a distrust of authority or a perceived scorn from liberals.
Hochschild spent years in the Bayou State, welcomed into homes where folks offered her meals — naturally — and told their stories. The paradox remains, but her book offers an insider’s view of how the arch-conservative members of Louisiana think. It’s also great storytelling, combining captivating tales backed by facts; a good portion of the book is endnotes, appendixes and bibliography.
Mark Danner called the book “a powerful, imaginative, necessary book, arriving not a moment too soon.” Robert Reich commented that “Anyone who wants to understand modern America should read this captivating book.” Publisher’s Weekly noted: “After evaluating her conclusions and meeting her informants in these pages, it’s hard to disagree that empathy is the best solution to stymied political and social discourse.”
            Hochschild is the author of “The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times,” “So How’s the Family?,” “The Managed Heart” and “The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home.” Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and in awarding Hochschild the Jesse Bernard Award, the American Sociological Association citation observed her “creative genius for framing questions and lines of insight, often condensed into memorable, paradigm-shifting words and phrases.”

Reading Together
The Lafayette Public Library is teaming up once again with area public schools and other local partners to entice the community to read, discuss and explore the same book, this year being “Ms. Marvel: No Normal,” a graphic novel written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona. The book follows a Pakistani-American teen who loves comic books and longs to be noticed by her peers. When she suddenly discovers she has super powers of her own, she realizes they’re not all she imagined they would be. Eighth and 12th graders in Lafayette Parish public school are scheduled to explore the book’s cultural and social themes and some will create related art projects. The inaugural Lafayette Reads Together Fest, featuring Pakistani performer Mehnaz Hoosein, Indian food and henna tattoo art, will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Main Library. Other related library programs in the coming weeks will be film showings, presentations, programs for teens and children —including the science behind superhero powers — and more. Patrons can check out the book at all Lafayette Public Library locations. Free copies will also be available at libraries, while supplies last, starting Tuesday, Jan. 17. For more information, visit

Book events
Former Lafayette Advertiser editor and writer Jim Bradshaw explains the “History of the Oil and Gas Industry in Lafayette” at 2 p.m. today at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum. Seating is limited and admission is free. Refreshments will be served.
Lyrically Inclined presents a Writing Workshop and Open Mic featuring Jonathan Penton Tuesday at Black Café, 518 S. Pierce St. in downtown Lafayette. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the workshop at 6:45 p.m. and the open mic at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $5 to sit, $3 “to spit” and free to high school students with identification.
Eric Alai, an instructor of English from LSU-Alexandria, will be the first speaker in the spring Cavanaugh Lecture Series at the Alexandria Museum of Art. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Alai has won multiple awards for his short stories and poems. 
Crystal Wilkinson, winner of the 2017 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, will offer a book reading at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ernest J. Gaines Center Hallway on the third floor of the Dupre Library on the UL-Lafayette campus.
New York Times Bestselling Author Carl Weber will be signing the copy of his latest book, “Man on the Run,” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Between the Lines Bookstore, 688 Harding Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
Children’s book author Alysson Foti Bourque will sign copies of her Rhyme or Reason Travel book series and The Alycat series from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.  

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Monday, January 9, 2017

Novel takes reader deep into immigrant experience

            The summer of 1979 was a turning point for 10-year-old Long-Vanh, the narrator in the novel “The Land South of the Clouds” by Genaro Ky Ly Smith, a professor of creative writing at Louisiana Tech. In 1979, “Apocalypse Now” was released, the Iranian hostage crisis continued and Americans experienced a painful gas shortage.
            It was also the summer Long-Vanh’s mother decides to return to Vietnam.
            The book begins with Long-Vanh forced to keep his mother’s secret of wanting to return to her war-torn country to help her father, lingering in a reeducation camp. As the summer unfolds and Long-Vanh anxiously fears of his mother’s disappearance, we learn of his pains growing up as a con lai, half Vietnamese and half African American, even in Asia Minor, an area of Los Angeles where other Vietnam veterans and their foreign brides reside.
            As Long-Vanh watches his mother, trying desperately to keep her from leaving, we also witness the pain of immigration. Long-Vanh doesn’t speak Vietnamese so he’s not fully immersed in the culture, ignorant of the letters coming from Vietnam. He’s also not fully black, so he lives an existence constantly feeling less than whole.
            Add to the mix his mother’s repercussions of leaving her country and the scorn of her father for marrying an American, his father returning to a country unaccepting of mixed marriages not to mention the racial divide and the disregard of Vietnam veterans and neighboring Vietnamese children ashamed of their parents who lost the war.
            “The Land South of the Clouds” offers an insightful look into the unique experience of Vietnamese immigration by a writer who understands it fully. Smith was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, to a mother he writes in the acknowledgements, “who left more than her father and family behind, but a whole country for what America could promise us…”
            Smith received both his M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing from McNeese. He is also the author of “The Land Baron’s Son: The Story of Ly Loc and His Seven Wives,” which ties into this novel (both published by UL-Lafayette Press), plus other works of poetry and fiction.
At the Lafayette library
            Here’s a resolution that improves your brain, one that heightens your senses and enhances your understanding of the world and the human condition. In the end, you get a cool prize. Read or listen to 100 books between now and Dec. 31 and you will become a member of the 100 Book Club at the Lafayette Library. I've joined up, now how about you? Wanna see who can read the most? Complete rules are available at
            The Friends of the Lafayette Public Library will have a mystery book sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Main Library, 301 W. Congress in downtown Lafayette. The sale will include mystery books and DVDs only.
            Arbor Day in Louisiana is celebrated on the third Saturday in January. Learn more about planting and caring for trees from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the East Regional Library when naturalists from the Louisiana State Arboretum discuss selecting and planting native trees for home landscapes. A limited supply of free tree seedlings will be available.
Dr. Jon Donlon will discuss his book about the culture of cockfighting in Southern Louisiana, “Bayou Country Bloodsport,” from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the South Regional Library.
            Former Advertiser editor and writer Jim Bradshaw explains the “History of the Oil and Gas Industry in Lafayette” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum. Seating is limited and admission is free. Refreshments will be served.
New releases
            Carla Serenity of Opelousas — who has worked numerous fashion shows such as Mercedes Bens Fashion Week in Houston and Fashion Week New York and represented models as Serenity’s Closet Talent Management — mentors young women and offers advice on fashion and modeling in her book “Carla Serenity” A Southern Girl’s Guide To Success.” For more information on the book and to order a copy, visit
            Historian, writer and a director at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours and the Ambrose Institute of New Orleans Mark Bielski describe the story of nine transplanted Poles who participated in the Civil War in his book, “Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation. The nine span three generations and are connected by culture, nationality and adherence to their principles and ideals with the common thread that they came from a country that had basically disintegrated at the end of the previous century, yet they carried the concepts of freedom they inherited from their forefathers to the New World.
            Since 1976, Jerry E. Strahan has been general manager of Lucky Dogs, the famous hot dog stand ones sees on the streets of New Orleans. Now his story is told in “Lucky Dogs: From Bourbon Street to Beijing and Beyond,” published by the University of Mississippi Press. Strahan is also the author of “Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II” and “Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter.”
            Linda Joyce will release on Wednesday book two in the Fleur de Lis Brides series, a novel titled “Biloxi.” The romance centers around Biloxi Dutrey, who is marrying at the restored Fleur de Lis house. To get to the altar, however, she and her finance must face a battle where the family loyalty lines are murky.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Girlfriends Weekend brings together authors, Elvis

Josh Davis, a top finalist in a half-dozen Elvis competitions, will entertain the crowd opening night of the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend at the Stephen F. Austin State University Baker Patillo Student Center in Nacogdoches, Texas.

The annual Girlfriends Weekend extravaganza, the largest meeting and discussing book club nationwide and in 15 foreign countries (according to their press release), will be Jan. 12-15, 2017.

A partnership with the Pulpwood Queens and the SFA Creative Writing program is new this year with the university hosting the daytime panels. Guest authors will host panel discussions throughout the day on Friday and Saturday. Speakers include New York Times bestsellers Jamie Ford, Robert Hicks, Paulette Jiles, and keynote Scott Wilbanks of “The Lemoncholy of Life of Annie Astor.” Immediately following each author’s panel, books will be available for purchase and autographs at the event.

The weekend will culminate on Saturday night at the “Great Big Ball of Hair” Ball held at Austin Hall. Each costumed attendee and author will be formally introduced as they enter. Come dressed as your favorite diamond, favorite author or book character and compete for best-themed girl group, best-themed skit contest, best Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guy dance contest, Timber Guy sexy reading contest and best Pulpwood Queen themed costume for Ms. “Great Big Ball of Hair” Ball Queen. If you missed going to a fun New Year’s Eve party, this is the party to come to.

General admission to Thursday evening’s Tribute to Elvis, starring Josh Davis, is $10. Single day admission for Friday and Saturday panels and the “Great Big Ball of Hair” Ball are $100 each and available only at the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gautreaux stories among Winter Okra Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has chosen its Winter Okra Picks, books they are looking forward to reading in the coming months. Among them are “Signals: New and Selected Stories” by Tim Gautreaux, which will be released Jan. 17. The Miami Herald says of the book, “A widely celebrated novelist gives us a generous collection of exhilarating short stories, proving that he is a master of this genre as well.” Gautreaux is the author of three novels and two earlier short story collections. After teaching for 30 years at Southeastern Louisiana University, he now lives, with his wife, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The other Winter Okra Picks are:
The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis (Hogarth)
The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish (HarperCollins)
Eveningland: Stories by Michael Knight (Atlantic Monthly Press) 
Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Chronicle)
Mercies in Disguise by Gina Kolata (St. Martin's)
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King (Henry Holt)
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain (University of South Carolina Press)
Pure Heart: A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit and Whiskey by Troy Ball (Dey Street Books)
The River of Kings by Taylor Brown (St. Martin's Press)
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin)
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson (St. Martin's)

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at