Sunday, January 20, 2013

Historic New Orleans Collection seeks 'Perspectives on Louisiana’s Natural History'

             The Historic New Orleans Collection’s 18th annual Williams Research Center Symposium will examine “Seeking the Unknown: Perspectives on Louisiana’s Natural History” on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans.
            Scholars from Louisiana and abroad will discuss the state’s natural history, including faculty members from LSU, Louisiana Tech, McNeese, Tulane, the University of British Columbia and the University of Mississippi, as well as independent art historians and curators. Robert A. Thomas, director of the Loyola University Center for Environmental Communication, will serve as the symposium moderator.
            There will be sessions on pre-colonial American Indians, early naturalists, John James Audubon, and more. Registration is required and early registration rates range between $40 and $75 with rates increasing after Feb. 1. Fees include the full day of presentations plus a special preview of the companion exhibition, “Seeking the Unknown: Natural History Observations in Louisiana, 1698–1840,” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. For more information, including a complete schedule of talks and links to online registration, visit 

            Moira Crone has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States for her latest book, "The Not Yet.” 
            Gerald Duff’s “Dirty Rice: A Season in the Evangeline League,” published by the UL Press, was named one of the 25 best fiction books of the year by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

New releases
            Michael S. Martin, director of the Center for Louisiana Studies at UL and Janet Allured, professor of history at McNeese State University and coordinator of its Women’s Studies program, have published “Louisiana Legacies: Readings in the History of the Pelican State.” The book is a collection of essays featuring recent scholarship and covering material on every region of Louisiana. Martin is also the managing editor of the Louisiana Historical Association’s quarterly journal, “Louisiana History” and his publications include “Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas:  A Centennial History, 1902-2002” and “Historic Lafayette.” Allured is the co-editor of “Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times” and she also shared the authorship of “Images of America: Lake Charles.” She is currently working on a history of the modern feminist movement in Louisiana.
            LSU Press publishes this week “The ‘Baby Dolls’: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition” by Kim Marie Vaz, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of education at Xavier University. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization for African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s Storyville district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Their baby doll costumes — short satin dresses, stockings with garters and bonnets — not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic, according to the book’s press release. In addition to creating a subversive presence at Mardi Gras, the Baby Dolls also helped shape the sound of jazz in the city. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through 100 years with photos, articles and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups such as Antoinette K-Doe’s Ernie K-Doe Baby Dolls, the New Orleans Society of Dance’s Baby Doll Ladies and the Tremé Million Dollar Baby Dolls.
            Vernon Valentine Palmer, the Thomas Pickles Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Eason Weinmann Center for Comparative Law at Tulane University, has published “Through the Codes Darkly: Slave Law and Civil Law in Louisiana.” The book examines the heritage of slave law in Louisiana, a profile of the first effort in modern history to integrate slavery into a European-style civil code, the 1808 Digest of Orleans, and a new unabridged translation by Palmer of the Code Noir of 1724 with the original French text on facing pages. Palmer is the author of more than 40 books and articles.
            Many people recognize the famous Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, which established the idea of separate but equal about blacks and whites in the late 19th century. Homer Plessy, a free man of color who was arrested in 1892 for sitting in the “white” section of a train, was a New Orleans resident. The event was orchestrated by the Comité des Citoyens in a campaign to test segregation’s legality. The case went as far as the Supreme Court, which backed segregation, holding firm until Brown vs. Board of Education ruled it illegal. Keith Weldon Medley details Plessy’s fight in “We as Freemen: Plessy vs. Ferguson, The Fight Against Legal Segregation,” now in paperback by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans.
LSU Libraries
            Cristina Caminita, the LSU Libraries’ agriculture and information literacy librarian, is one of 56 library professionals selected nationwide to participate in the American Library Association’s 2013 Class of Emerging Leaders.
            Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus will host a film series throughout the spring, open to the public and free. The films will be shown at 2 p.m. with a guest scholar introduction on the following days:  
            Wednesday, Jan. 23, the series kicks off with “The September Issue,” a 2009 documentary that chronicles Vogue Magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her staff as they prepare the publication’s 2007 fall fashion issue;
            Wednesday, Feb. 20, in recognition of Black History Month, the series will feature the 1989 film “Glory” starring Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick;
            Wednesday, March 13, celebrating Women’s History Month, the series will showcase the controversial 2009 Australian documentary, “Stolen” relating to modern-day slavery issues in northern African refugee camps; and
            Wednesday, April 17, the series concludes with a screening of “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.”
             Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact LSU Libraries Reference Assistant Coordinator Kelly Blessinger at (225) 578-8538 or email

Cinema on the Bayou
            The eighth annual Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival begins this week with several screenings Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26-27, at the South Regional Library Auditorium. Cinema on the Bayou is an annual five-day film festival committed to advancing the understanding of Cajun and Creole cultures through film screenings, panels and cultural exchanges among French Louisiana, the U.S. and the Francophone countries of the world. For more information, visit

Book events
            A book discussion of “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin" by Erik Larson
will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
            Casa Azul in Grand Coteau presents La Scene Ouverte for all ages (open mic in French) beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday.
            The St. Landry-Evangeline United Way will host the “Harlem Ambassadors vs. Team United,” to benefit The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Opelousas High School Gym in Opelousas. For information, call (337) 942-7815.
            The UNO Creative Writing Workshop and the UNO Fine Arts Department will host a poetry reading at 7 p.m. Thursday at the UNO Fine Arts Campus Gallery. Poet Megan Burns, whose most recent collection is out from Dancing Girl Press, will read from her “Dollbaby poems” and the “Poetic of Nicki Minaj.” Poet Kristin Sanders, whose poetry chapbook “Orthorexia” is also out from Dancing Girl Press, will read and sing her newest series, “I Learned To Be A Woman From A Nineties Country Song.” A wine and cheese reception and book signing will follow the reading.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at