Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sternberg returns to River Road between New Orleans, Baton Rouge in LSU Press book

            Mary Ann Sternberg, author of “Along the River Road: Past and Present on Louisiana’s Historic Byway,” now available in a new and updated edition, follows up with “River Road Rambler: A Curious Traveler along Louisiana’s Historic Byway,” both available through LSU Press. 
            It’s a sweet little hardback book full of great explorations of places, people and events that occurred along the River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. There’s the Lourdes grotto at St. Michael’s Church in Convent created like no other, the little known slave insurrection of 1811 that happened outside New Orleans, now considered “the largest and bloodiest slave uprising in the history of the United States,” the former Jewish temple now located inside a hardware store, and much more.
            I had ancestors who settled the “German Coast” upriver from New Orleans who helped start and feed a colony, so I know the extensive history that lines the Mississippi River. Sternberg brings it to vivid life in “River Road Rambler” and offers a varied, well-researched telling, giving readers more food for thought than a simple history lesson.
            “Sternberg guides us to that rare intersection of lively writing and intellectual curiosity in her book about Louisiana’s famous River Road,” writes Rheta Grimsley Johnson, author of “Poor Man’s Provence and Hank Hung the Moon.”
            I’d recommend buying both books and taking a drive up or down the curvy River Road, using Sternberg’s “Along the River Road” as a travel guide, then stopping for lunch or coffee and enjoying “Rambler” while you soak up the region’s ambience and history.
            Sternberg is also the author of “Winding through Time: The Forgotten History and Present-Day Peril of Bayou Manchac.”
            She will speak about the River Road in a lecture sponsored by The Foundation for Historical Louisiana at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Old Governor’s Mansion, 502 North Blvd.

New releases           
            John LaFleur of Washington follows up his Creole cookbook with “Louisiana’s French Creole Culinary & Linguistic Traditions: Facts vs. Fiction, Before and Since ‘Cajunization’,” with additional text by Brian Costello and photographs by Norris Fontenot. LaFleur believes that Creole is a person of European or African descent born in the colonies, which pretty much relates to everyone, even those who call themselves “Cajuns.”
            In his book, he attempts to correct historical teachings in Louisiana, offering that “Cajun Country” was originally Creole Country and still is, and that Creole in Acadiana doesn’t simply mean those of color. He takes aim at those who have “Cajunized” the region, misrepresenting history, and also those who stopped calling themselves Creole in order not to be associated with those of color.
            La Fleur offers good points in his argument. Being of Creole ancestry from New Orleans I understand the need for clarification; many times have I stressed the differences between Creole and Cajun cooking to outsiders. The culinary traditions of Louisiana have been blurred, and lean way too far toward Cajun, and LaFleur provides research to set things straight.
            His insistence that Cajuns should have assimilated, that they were anti-Creole in a sense, did not sit well with me, however. There is a distinct Cajun culture in Louisiana, mainly because they did not assimilate, and their isolation may be one main reason why the Louisiana French language has survived. Because South Louisiana as a region didn’t assimilate into mainstream American culture is why we’re still so unique to the rest of the country, why our food and music draws the world.
            We need to teach the truths of Louisiana history, and this book strives to do so. But Cajun culture is the reason I moved to Lafayette. I think a panel of historians and LaFleur would make for an interesting discussion.
            The book retails for $49.94, but is also available online as an ebook. LaFleur and Costello are also the authors of “Speaking In Tongues, Louisiana’s Colonial French, Creole & Cajun Languages Tell Their Story: Louisiana’s Creole Linguistic & Cultural Heritage.”
            And if you have an opinion to add, please visit the Louisiana Book News Facebook page and post. We’d love to hear from you.

Library news
            “Partners by Nature,” a lecture series presented by the Acadiana Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Lafayette Public Library System, will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at Lafayette’s South Regional Branch Library. These lectures focus on ways to conserve natural resources through cultural and economic enhancement. Speakers include: Collin Bercier of Louisiana Solar Solutions and Jeff Shaw of the Louisiana Solar Energy Society. The event is free.

Book events
            Elana Bell will read her poetry at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the UNO Fine Arts Gallery, followed by a booksigning and wine and cheese reception. This event is free and open to the public. Elana’s first collection of poetry, “Eyes, Stones” (LSU Press 2012) was the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Elana also received grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, the AROHO Foundation, the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Drisha Institute. Her work has recently appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, CALYX Journal, and elsewhere.

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

Monday, April 15, 2013

LSU Press book discusses Civil Rights activism

            It was April 16, 1963, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, including the line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This week marks the 50th anniversary and the city of Birmingham, the Birmingham Library and the Terrebonne Parish Library are hosting events that include the reading of King’s letter, to name a few.         
                In Houma, there will be a brown bag lunch from noon to 1 p.m. in the outdoor atrium of the Main Library. Some books to consider reading include “Why We Can’t Wait” by King (Penguin), which recounts the Birmingham campaign and discusses why 1963 was a crucial year for the Civil Rights Movement.
            A new book available from LSU Press is James P. Marshall’s “Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi,” which tells the complete story of the quest for civil rights in Mississippi. Marshall is a former Civil Rights activist, an independent scholar and former non-resident fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Turley to speak
            John Turley will speak about the Deepwater Horizon Macondo Well blowout at 6:30 p.m. April 17 at Lafayette’s South Regional Branch Library.
            Turley studied BP’s Macondo blowout to document the drilling of the 3 1/2-mile-deep well and the sequence of events that caused the catastrophe. The presentation will include time for questions.
            Turley is a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, University of Miami and Harvard Business School. He worked in petroleum engineering for Phillips Petroleum, Fluor Ocean Services, Tenneco Oil Company and as a professor at Marietta College. He was the Gulf Coast drilling manager, U.K. operations manager and manager of worldwide drilling, and VP of engineering and technology at Marathon Oil Company.
            He is also the author of “The Simple Truth: BP’s Macondo Blowout,” a non-fiction, data-driven book that’s presented as a novel.

Book news
            At the Louisiana Historical Association (LHA) meeting on March 22, The Historic New Orleans Collection and the LHA chose Lawrence N. Powell’s “The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans” as the 2012 winner of the Kemper and Leila Williams Prize. The prize, named for the founders of The Historic New Orleans Collection, is offered annually, recognizing excellence in research and writing on Louisiana history. Powell is emeritus faculty in Tulane University’s history department and former director of the University’s New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. He will receive a cash prize of $1,500 and a plague.
             Musician and author Zachary Richard received the James Williams Rivers Prize in Louisiana Studies, established to honor those who have contributed or rendered outstanding scholarly study, work or teaching about the culture, history, art, architecture, crafts, flora, fauna, music, literature, law, performing arts or geography of Louisiana or its people. The prize is donated in memory of Rivers, a New Orleans architect and graduate of USL, who died in 1991. Past recipients include George Rodrigue, James Lee Burke, Elemore Morgan, Sr. & Jr., Ernest Gaines, Dr. Barry Ancelet, and A. Hays Town. Richard has just released a new album titled “Le Fou” with the accompanying video “Laisse le Vent Souffler” (“Let The Storm Winds Blow”), filmed at McGee’s Landing in the Atchafalaya Basin. 

New releases
            The Historic New Orleans Collection has published a recently discovered and uncensored memoir of a young Frenchman and his 1729 trip to New Orleans, “A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies.” Written for an intimate circle of friends, Marc-Antoine Caillot’s story documents major and minor Louisiana events – from the Natchez massacre to the first documented account of Carnival to his own pranks and romantic escapades. The book is being released this week with a special reception and book signing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Collection, 533 Royal St. in New Orleans.
            In commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, Ezra Warner’s opus, “Generals in Blue and Generals in Gray,” is available for the first time as a hardcover boxed set of both volumes from LSU Press. The books contain biographical sketches and photographs of all 425 Confederate and 583 Union generals.
            Former Louisiana poet laureate Brenda Marie Osbey of New Orleans has published her fifth collection of poetry, titled “History and Other Poems.” The book “moves from present to past and back again to reveal the trauma of hearts and lives broken even as it underscores the heroic endurance, resilience and agency of the enslaved and their descendants.”
            New Orleans poet Brett Evans has released his new book from Trembling Pillow Press titled “I Love This American Way of Life.” Evans’ work has been featured in anthologies The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry, Another South: Experimental Writing in the South and Poets for Living Waters and in the biography “Ernie K-Doe: the R & B Emperor of New Orleans.”
            Kid Chef Eliana of New Orleans has been taking the world by storm, with her own weekly radio show “Cool Kids Cook” on the Voice America Kids network and appearing on TV and radio programs. Now, the young chef has her own cookbook, with help from Dianne de las Cases, an award-winning author and her mom. “Cool Kids Cook: Louisiana,” published by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans, offers traditional Louisiana dishes that are easy enough for children to make. Each recipe comes with a chef’s note and photos, illustrated by Soleil Lisette. It’s a great cookbook for youth, and it doesn’t scrimp on technique nor talk down to its audience. Kids making these recipes will end up with some fabulous dishes.
            Retired teacher and grandmother Fran Aertker Barbato of Lafayette had friends asking for suggestions of activities to do with their grandkids. She decided to write a book full of activities, organized into topics, that would be both fun and educational. The result is “Grammy Frannie Fun: Do you want to spend time or spend a fortune?,” edited by her daughter Sarah Brooks Barbato. As you may imagine, the innovative book features creative activities where you won’t spend a fortune, but spend hours of fun. “Granny Frannie Fun” is available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online.

            The History Press has several new titles out about Louisiana. Patrick O’Daniel looks at the 1927 Flood and its impact on Memphis and the Mississippi Delta in “When the Levee Breaks: Memphis and the Mississippi Valley Flood of 1927.” Cheryl H. White has written a biography of one of Louisiana’s most interesting figures in “Confederate General Leonidas Polk: Louisiana’ Fighting Bishop.” Polk was an Episcopal bishop deeply committed to the Confederacy. And Edmond Boudreaux Jr. delves into Mississippi Coast tales, from Jean Lafitte to Barq’s root beer in “Legends and Lore of the Mississippi Golden Gulf Coast.”

            The 16th annual Alabama Writers Symposium will be April 25-27 in Monroeville, Ala., home to Harper Lee. Writers include Rick Bragg, Chantel Acevedo, Marlin Barton, Cassandra King, Gay Talese (winner of the 2013 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer), Sue Walker (winner of the 2013 Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar) and many more. For information, visit www.WritersSymposium.org.
            The Winston S. Churchill Symposium on May 18 is a partnered program between The National WWII Museum
& The Churchill Society of New Orleans and includes several authors and scholars discussing topics relevant to the life and legacy of Sir Winston S. Churchill. Speakers include Pulitzer Prize finalist Dr. Michael Shelden (“Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill”); Dr. Christopher M. Bell (“Churchill & Sea Power”), an associate professor of military/naval history and modern English history at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Paul Reid (“The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940 — 1965”), the author of the third and final volume of the trilogy begun by William Manchester, “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940 — 1965” (published November 2012) and Dr. Rob Havers (“Winston Churchill: The Iron Curtain Speech”), executive director of the Churchill Memorial and Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain” speech. For information, visit www.nationalww2museum.org.

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

Monday, April 8, 2013

'Swamper' brings children into Louisiana wetlands

            Naturalist and environmental educator Amy Griffin Ouchley was leading a nature hike when she spied a rabbit, larger than eastern cottontails and able to swim. Vowing to her group that she would research this rabbit, Ouchley later found letters in a hollow stump near her house from “Swamper,” the swamp rabbit, all of which have made it into a delightful book titled “Swamper: Letters from a Swamp Rabbit” by LSU Press.
             The children’s nature and science book, geared toward 8- to 12-year-olds, offers lessons about life in a Louisiana swamp, accented by brilliant photographs, questions from the author for students to ponder and related activities for children to create. Students will learn about Swamper’s role in the web of life, animals that prey on rabbits, migratory and resident birds in the wetlands and much more.
            “Swamper” provides a fun way to learn environmental science and would make a great complement to elementary school classrooms and nature centers.
            Ouchley received the Conservation Educator of the Year Award in 2011 from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and she lives in northeast Louisiana with her naturalist and author husband, Kelby Ouchley, near an overflow swamp.

Poetry Month
            April is National Poetry Month and the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana will present its third annual “Just Listen to Yourself: The Louisiana Poet Laureate Presents Louisiana Poets” program.
            Julie Kane, Louisiana poet laureate, will host the event from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the State Library Seminar Center, 701 N. Fourth St. in Baton Rouge. Poets from around the state will join Kane in readings of their work, including Nordette Adams, Jack B. Bedell, Darrell Bourque, Gina Ferrara, Charles Garrett, Christopher Hannan, Ava Leavell Haymon, Elizabeth King, Laura Mullen, Melinda Palacio and Jennifer Reeser. (Bedell, Haymon and Mullen are all nominees for the next Louisiana poet laureateship.)
            Registration is not required for this free event. Attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches.

Clark to speak at ULL
            The Department of History and Geography and the Center for Louisiana Studies will host Tulane University Clement Chambers Benenson professor of American colonial history and associate professor of history Emily Clark at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the UL Alumni Center for a free lecture and book signing. Clark will speak on her new book, “The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World.”

            Through research in the New Orleans archives, Clark found that free women of color with ancestral roots in New Orleans were as likely to marry in the 1820s as white women. And marriage, not concubinage, was the basis of their family structure.
            The lecture and book signing is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser at 482-5206 or email kaiser@louisiana.edu.

            “Extraordinary Recipes from New Orleans Chef’s Table” by Lorin Gaudin, with photography by Romney Caruso, highlights interesting dishes from the city’s famed restaurants. Each restaurant chapter spotlights the owners and chefs along with recipes and full-color photos. The book also includes special sections on farmer’s markets, gourmet food trucks and the like. Gaudin is also the author of “86 Recipes New Orleans: Recipe Cards From Top Restaurants for the Home Kitchen.”
            One of my favorite cookbooks so far this year is “Fred Thompson’s Southern Side: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate.” Veteran cookbook author Fred Thompson has compiled a host of great Southern sides, what he called the “apex of Southern cooking,” in easy recipes.

Film fundraiser
            The Festival of Words and Cane Fire Film Series presents an evening of beat poetry, silent auction and a special screening of “Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder” at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cite Des Arts, 109 Vine St. in downtown Lafayette.
            The evening begins with beat poetry performances by local poets Jerry McGuire and others and the silent auction includes handmade quilts, art glass by Karen Bourque, paintings by William Turley and more. The film begins at 8 p.m., a documentary by director Christopher Felver on poet, playwright, publisher and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti who helped to spark the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and the subsequent “Beat” movement.
            Food and drinks will be available through Cité des Arts’ Station Café. Tickets are $15 on sale at Cite and Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau.
            For information, call (337) 662-1032, 356-5153 or visit www.facebook.com/canefirefilmseries and www.festivalofwords.org.

Library events
            Mary Ann Armbruster will speak on how to create easy, low-maintenance home gardens at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the North Regional Library in Lafayette. A children’s project to create flower seed pockets will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday at South Regional Library. For more information on Lafayette Library events, visit LafayettePublicLibrary.org.

Book events
            The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana is sponsoring an Editing Workshop on Saturday at Johnson Street Java. The cost is $15 per member and $20 for non-members. Editors speaking will be Evan Moore of the Daily World, Sevie Ashley of 008 magazine, blogger and The Independent writer Anna Purdy and Judy Johnson, retired editor who worked for The Times of Acadiana, Acadiana Gazette and numerous other publications. Bring your laptops!
            Rita Leganski signs copies of “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
            The annual Jambalaya Writers Conference Saturday  at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma features keynote speaker Tim O’Brien, author of “The Things They Carried.” Other presenters include biographer Leo Honeycutt; novelists Ernest Hill, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Heather Graham; non-fiction authors Carolyn Long and Shirley Laska; children’s author and storyteller Rose Anne St. Romain; poets Ava Leavell Haymon, Jay Udall, and William Bradford Clark. Literary agents Page Wheeler and Rachel Eckstrom and editors Rose Hilliard, Katherine DePalma, and Monique Patterson will be there as well. The cost is $35 and includes lunch. Visit www.mytpl.org/jwc for more information.
            Three Covington authors will offer a program titled "Memories to Memoirs: Remembering Covington in Your Writing" at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Center of Performing Arts on 201 North Columbia St. in Covington. Authors include Christian Garcia, author of “Now and Always: A Louisiana Love Story;” Pat Fuhrmann Clanton, author of “A Potpourri of Memories — Growing Up in Covington” and David Arbo, author of “Covington: Images of America.” The event is free. For information, call Sharon Nunez at 892.2254 or email her at thenunezs@gmail.com.

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.