Tuesday, December 30, 2014

State Library offering Teen Video Challenge

            The State Library of Louisiana will again participate in the Collaborative SummerLibrary Program’s Teen Video Challenge, a national video competition for teens to get involved with reading and their public libraries’ summer reading programs. Teenagers may enter the competition by creating a public service announcement that encourages teens to read and visit libraries during the summer using the theme “Unmask!” The deadline for video submission is March 13. The winning video from each participating state will be announced in the spring and used by public libraries nationally to promote summer reading. The creators of the winning state video will be awarded $150 and their associated public library will receive prizes worth $50 from the CSLP and Upstart. To view the 2014 videos and additional information, visit www.cslpreads.org. Rules and details for the challenge can be found on the State Library’s website, www.state.lib.la.us. Click Literacy and Reading, then Summer Reading Program and scroll to Teen Video Challenge.

Chipotle
            I’m a solid supporter of the arts and I love to see visual artists, musicians and performers getting breaks whenever possible. I have to say, it’s disappointing that writers are routinely left out of the mix, especially since A., we starve like the rest of them and B., we usually do it in solitude which makes it worse.
            Hooray for Chipotle Mexican Grill, which just opened in Lafayette near Whole Foods on Ambassador Caffery. They offer a “Cultivating Thought” author series that features original essays written by influential thought-leaders, authors, actors and comedians on its restaurant packaging. Created in partnership with New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Eating Animals,” “Everything is Illuminated”) who curated the series, these stories are meant to entertain customers while exposing them to some of the most creative and influential people of our time.
            The day I visited I read pieces by Toni Morrison (Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author of “Beloved”) and Michael Lewis (“The Blind Side” and “Moneyball”) on our cups, surrounded by St. Thomas More students who I hoped would read their packaging before heading back to school.
            The “Cultivating Thought” author series also includes Sheri Fink, author of “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital,” a book about Memorial Hospital of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Coming up
            The Student Career Concepts and Enrichment Program Inc.\Just Write Cultural Arts Group will sponsor the African American Authors Round Table from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Acadiana Mall’s Center Court Area. There will be authors from southwest Louisiana including, Lafayette, St. Mary Parish and New Orleans. In addition, the event offers an opportunity for parents, students, teachers, librarians and citizens to discuss with authors their joy of writing books. Visitors who stop by and visit with the authors will receive free items that include books, pens, pencils, posters and other items. The principal or librarian from the school with the most signatures will receive a gift. The deadline for authors to register is Jan. 16, 2015. The Student Career Concepts and Enrichment Program is a mentoring and job shadowing program. For information, contact Sherry T. Broussard at 261-1940, scce@lusfiber.net or visit lacsprograms.org.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Queen Sugar' great examination of sugarcane farming, family relationships

Update: "Queen Sugar" will be made into a new series for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network!

             Charley Bordelon’s father leaves her an unusual gift in his will — 800 acres of sugarcane land in rural South Louisiana. There are strange stipulations as well, meaning the urban school teacher must meet the challenge of raising cane, to borrow a pun, or lose the property. Against her mother’s wishes and her own good judgment, Bordelon leaves Los Angeles for Louisiana and her travails in the Bayou State make up “Queen Sugar,” a novel by Natalie Baszile.
            Bordelon brings along her young teen daughter, who’s not happy with the move, and they make due at her grandmother’s home. Her Louisiana family offers assistance but the job of turning around a neglected sugarcane farm proves to be an enormous challenge. When Bordelon’s half brother, a con artist fighting inner demons, shows up with his son, tension moves up a few notches and continues throughout the story.
            The novel offers an excellent education in the production of sugarcane. Bordelon must face excessive rains and mold, clearing out blocked waterways, planting and replanting cane — even a hurricane. Through stubborn determination to make the farm successful, facing racism and established landowners wanting to buy her out, Bordelon finds help and a way even though the process is long and tedious.
            Baszile studied Afro American Studies at UCLA and earned an MFA at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers in North Carolina. She lives in San Francisco but it’s obvious she spent time in Louisiana among cane farmers and residents, acquiring authentic information and learning proper dialogue cadence without the stereotypical accents so many out-of-towners insert.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Louisiana books — last chance gift ideas

            Lovers of the Crosby Arboretum just over the Mississippi state line near Picayune will not want to miss Robert F. Brzuszek’s petite but lovely book on the nature preserve titled “The Crosby Arboretum: A Sustainable Regional Landscape.” The book details the arboretum’s history and development, the creation of the Pinecote Pavilion by noted architect Fay Jones (Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs) and the arboretum today.
            Love the old hotels of New Orleans? Paul Oswell offers a guide with photos and historical documents to hotels such as The Roosevelt, the Monteleone and the Audubon Cottages in “New Orleans Historic Hotels.” Being that it’s a New Orleans book, there are wonderful recipes in the back as lagniappe, including the Peychaud sazerac and the Ramos gin fizz, both made famous at The Roosevelt. Oswell is an English transplant to the city who’s written travel guide books on New Orleans, including “New Orleans for Free.”
            How about that art lover on your list? Pelican Publishing and author John R. Kemp honor Alan Flattmann’s dreamy pastels of New Orleans with a coffee table book titled “The Paintings of Alan Flattmann: An Artist’s Vision of New Orleans.” The University of Mississippi Press offers a memoir of Louisiana artist Rolland Golden accented by 150 illustrations, including some of the artist never seen before, in “Rolland Golden: Life, Love and Art in the French Quarter.” Golden worked in a Royal Street studio, capturing French Quarter life. His memoir discusses his life and art from 1955 to 1976, concluding with his visit to the former Soviet Union as the only American artist to enjoy a one-man touring exhibition there.

Literary Ball
            The 2014 Hands On Literary Festival & Masquerade Ball will be today through New Year’s Eve in New Orleans. The event features keynote speakers Joy Castro, author of the post-Katrina thrillers “Hell or High Water” and “Nearer Home,” and Lee Gutkind, recognized by Vanity Fair as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” and author and editor of more than 30 books and founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary magazine to publish narrative nonfiction exclusively. Other authors include Amanda Boyden, Joseph Boyden, Steven Church, Moira Crone, John Gery, Rodger Kamenetz, Bill Lavender, Bill Loehfelm, Ira Sukrungruang, Tawni Waters, Neil White, and many more. The theme is Silver & Gold: Wealth and Economics in Creative Writing and Literature. For information, visit http://burlesquepressllc.com/handsonball/

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cookbook Thursday: Holiday gift ideas!

            We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again, books make great holiday gifts. They last forever, bring hours of escape or entertainment and actually increase a person’s IQ.
            Here are some fun cookbooks to consider:
            Cooking Light magazine offers two great cookbooks that are as delightful to read as they are informative for the chef. Dietician and food writer Sally Kuzemchak is a mom raising two young boys so you know her recipes will be brief on ingredients and big on taste. Her latest is “Dinnertime Survival Guide” for those needing to serve up healthy family dinners in a short amount of time. (Her recipe below is from her web site, a little longer than most but quite tasty.) New York Times best-selling author David Joachim shows readers how to create global dishes with little education in “Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy.” He has a recipe below as well.
            One of the most interesting books I’ve come across all year is “Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat” by Ellen Zachos. The book reads like an encyclopedia of common plants good enough to eat, many of which — such as ginko fruit, acorns, daylilies and dandelions — are sitting right outside your window.
            “Orange is the New Black Presents The Cookbook,” based on the popular Netflix TV show about a woman’s prison, is more entertainment than serious cooking although the 65 recipes seem real enough, just accented by fun names such as Crack Almonds. The sidebars, photos from the show and prison factoids really round out the book. Once you’ve foraged for dandelions, you can create the Crazy Eye’s Dandelion Salad. If you’re wondering about the reference, ask a fan of the show to explain.

T-Riffic Tilapia Tacos
From “Dinnertime Survival Guide”
Crema:
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
Spice Mixture:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Tacos:
1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups angel hair slaw
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
            Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Cover and chill. Combine cumin and next 5 ingredients (through garlic powder) in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture over both sides of fillets. Place fillets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees for 9 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Cool slightly. Place fish in a large bowl; break into pieces with 2 forks. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates. Arrange 1/2 cup slaw on each tortilla. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; Top each serving with 1/4 cup tomato, 2 tablespoons red onion, 1 tablespoon green onions and about 3 tablespoons lime crema. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve with lime wedges.

Lamingtons
From “Global Kitchen”
Cooking spray
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces cake flour (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups reduced-fat unsweetened finely shredded dehydrated coconut
             Direction: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper, allowing parchment paper to extend over edge of pan.
            Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Place egg yolks and remaining 6 tablespoons granulated sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until thick and pale (about 3 minutes).
            Beat in vanilla. Gently fold egg yolk mixture into egg white mixture. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; sift mixture over egg mixture, 1/3 cup at a time; fold in. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
            Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove cake from pan, using parchment paper sides as handles. Cool completely on a wire rack (with parchment paper in place). Wrap cake and parchment paper in plastic wrap; chill 2 hours.
Remove plastic wrap from cake; place cake (with parchment paper in place) on a cutting board. Cut cake into 16 squares, using a serrated knife.
            Combine milk and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until chocolate melts. Remove from heat; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cocoa and powdered sugar, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
Place coconut in a medium bowl. Dip cake squares, 1 at a time, into melted chocolate mixture, using 2 forks to gently turn the cake to coat; scrape off excess chocolate on side of pan. Place chocolate-coated cake in coconut, using 2 forks to gently turn the cake to coat.

            Place lamingtons on wire rack; let stand 15 minutes or until chocolate is set. Serves 16 (serving size: 1 cake).

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music books about the South, New Orleans

             Denise Duffy opens “We Are The Music Makers! Preserving the Soul of America’s Music” with a statement that almost all American music has roots reaching southward.
            “Deeply personal and implausibly universal, the blues, jazz, gospel and old time music of the American South form a deep aquifer that contemporary musicians all around the world drink from daily,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “The music is constantly expanding and morphing into country, rock, rap and soul, but trace the origins and you will find yourself standing squarely in the South.”
            Along with folklore historian Timothy Duffy, they have authored a wonderful tribute to southern music makers in exquisite black and white photos, quotes and biographies, produced through their nonprofit organization, Music Maker Relief Foundation. Money raised through the program assists blues musicians in need.             Some of the spotlights include lyrics to songs, many of which will turn your head.
            A companion CD is also available.
            If you’re looking for more great books for the musician on your holiday list, here are a few to consider:
            “The New Orleans Jazz Scene, 1970-2000, a Personal Retrospective” by Thomas W. Jacobsen chronicles the resurgence of jazz in New Orleans in the late 20th century. The book includes more than 70 photos of jazz players and performances.
            Jimmie Rodgers was known as the “Father of Country Music” while Charley Patton was “King of the Delta Blues.” The two held parallel careers from Mississippi poverty to success and Ben Wynne examines both from different sides of the race line in his LSU book, “In Tune: Charley Patton, Jimmie Rodgers and the Roots of American Music.”
            Barbara Barnes Sims of Baton Rouge worked with Sam Phillips as publicist and sales promotion coordinator at Sun Records in Memphis. In the three years she worked there, from 1957 to 1960, she came in contact with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbinson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich. Her memoir, “The Next Elvis: Searching For Stardom at Sun Records,” discusses a pivotal time at the record company and those remarkable musicians who followed in the King’s shoes.

Awards
            Kirkus Awards for best non-fiction books of 2014 include “The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson of New Orleans and “Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” by John Lahr.

Holiday releases
            Pelican Publishing has two books perfect for the holidays or gift giving. Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust of Lafayette have created a delightful combination Louisiana holiday celebration-cookbook with “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations.” And New Orleans home and garden journalist Bonnie Warren has compiled some of the city’s loveliest holiday decorated homes in “New Orleans Homes at Christmas.”
            Just in time for Christmas, Carolyn Haines has published “Bones on the Bayou: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Short Story,” where the town of Shaw, Miss., resurrects the old custom of drifting miniature, lighted Christmas floats down Silver Bayou. The event is designed to honor an Italian delegation from Venice who may bring much-needed jobs to the small, struggling Delta town. Of course, there’s a murder. Haines has also published “Haunted Holidays: 3 Short Tales of Terror,” a collection of spooky Christmas stories. Both books are available for download at online booksellers.

Humanities class
            UL professor of English Dr. Mary Ann Wilson and the UL Friends of the Humanities present “From Kate Chopin to Swamp People: Louisiana in Literature and Film” on Wednesdays, Jan. 14 through Feb. 11. The class is open to all participants and will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at H.L. Griffin Hall on the UL campus. The class will read and discuss Kate Chopin’s short stories, Lyle Saxon’s “Children of Strangers,” Rebecca Wells’ “Little Altars Everywhere” and view and discuss films/TV shows “Spirit of a Culture: Cane River Creoles,” “Swamp People,” “True Detective” and “True Blood.” The cost is $75 for Friends members and $100 for non-members. For more information, call Wilson at 298-0406 or email maw0383@louisiana.edu.

Book events
             UL Press authors Eddie Boyd, James Nolan, Richard Campanella, Michael Marshall, Freddi Evans, Jason Berry, Marty Mulé and Morgan Molthrop will sign copies of their books at 7 p.m. Thursday at the New Orleans Athletic Club, 222 N. Rampart St., at the “Wine & Sign” event.

            Ryan Adam, author of “New Orleans Mother Goose” and Cecilia Casrill Dartez, author of “Jenny Giraffe and the Streetcar Party” will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Pop City, 3118 Magazine St. in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Louisiana book events Dec. 10-14

            Marvin Allen, manager of the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel of New Orleans, will talk about his new book, “Magic in a Shaker: A Year of Spirited Libations” and the history of prohibition at 7 p.m. Tuesday at East Bank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon Ave. in Metairie.
            Ralph Adamo, Ava Leavall Haymoth, Gina Ferrara and Andy Young will share their poetry at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
            Bonnie Warren signs “New Orleans Homes at Christmas” from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at Tubby and Coo’s, 613 N. Carrollton Ave. in New Orleans. She will also be signing copies at noon Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans.
            Ron Drez signs “The War of 1812: Conflict and Deception: The British Attempt to Seize New Orleans and Nullify the Louisiana Purchase” at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.
            Muralist Robert Dafford and photographer Philip Gould will discuss their new book, “The Public Art of Robert Dafford,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at South Regional Library in Lafayette, part of Bayou State Book Talks, a free series offered by the UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies and the Lafayette Public Library System.
            Keith Weldon Medley, author of “Black Life in Old New Orleans,” will be signing books from 6-8 p.m. Friday at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He will also be signing from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center of New Orleans.
            Richard Ford signs “Let Me Be Frank with You: A Frank Bascombe Book” at 5 p.m., followed by a reading at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss., and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.
            Gretna author Jennifer Comeaux will sign her latest book about ice skating titled “Crossing the Ice” from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday at the Gretna Art Walk and Farmer's Market. Her first trilogy included “Life on the Edge,” “Edge of the Past”' and “Fighting for the Edge.” “Crossing the Ice” begins a new series.
            Denise Walter McConduit signs “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Read” and Frank Blazek signs “Phil and His Fabulous Feathers” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., then Ann Benoit signs “New Orleans’ Best Ethnic Restaurants” and Suzanne Pfefferie signs “Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans” from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Pop City, 3118 Magazine St. in New Orleans.
            Addie K. Martin and Jeremy Martin sign copies of “Southeast Louisiana Food: A Seasoned Tradition” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
            Dianne de Las Casas, author of “Cinderellaphant, The House That Santa Built,” and many other children's books, and Chef Kid Elana, author of “Cool Kids Cook: Fresh and Fit” and “Cool Kids Cook: Louisiana” will be signing books from noon to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at NOLA Kids, 333 Chartres St. in New Orleans
            Johnette Downing, award-winning singer/songwriter and children's author, will be giving a concert from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14., at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mitchell S. Jackson wins Ernest Gaines Award

            The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has named Mitchell S. Jackson winner of the 2014 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for his novel “The Residue Years.” The Ernest Gaines Award ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22, 2015 at the Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge. Doors open at 6 p.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public but a reservation is required.
             Now in its eighth year, the Gaines Award is a $10,000 annual prize created by foundation donors to honor outstanding work from rising African-American fiction writers while honoring Louisiana native Ernest Gaines’ contribution to the literary world.
             “The Residue Years,” published in 2013 by Bloomsbury Books, is a semi-autobiographical novel based on Jackson’s experience growing up in Portland, Ore., in a neighborhood ravaged by violence and drug use. It follows a mother and former addict trying to steer her three sons away from drugs.
             “The Residue Years” received critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Times of London, Sydney Morning Herald and O, the Oprah Magazine, and was a finalist for the Center For Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for best fiction by a writer of African descent. Jackson’s novel was also considered for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, the Chautauqua Prize, and was named a fiction honor book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.
             Mitchell S. Jackson earned a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and a master’s in creative writing from New York University, where he now teaches. He also earned fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Urban Artists Initiative and The Center For Fiction. His previous honors include the Hurston Wright Foundation award for college writers. In 2012, he published the e-book “Oversoul: Stories and Essays.”
             Due to the high number of exceptional entries, several books were short listed for the Gaines Award by the judges.  They are:
            “Celestial Blue Skies” by Maggie Collins
            “Red Now and Laters” by Marcus J. Guillory
            “The Secret of Magic” by Deborah Johnson
            “Long Division” by Kiese Laymon
             Previous winners of the Ernest J. Gaines award include Attica Locke for “The Cutting Season,” Stephanie Powell Watts for “We Are Taking Only What We Need” and Dinaw Mengestu for “How to Read the Air.”
             The national panel of judges for the 2014 Gaines Award are: Thomas Beller, award-winning author and journalist; Anthony Grooms, author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; author Elizabeth Nunez, professor of English at Hunter College-City University of New York; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.
             Ernest Gaines is a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, La. and became a literary legend and influential American author. He is a 2013 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal and a member of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of publication of his first novel, “Catherine Carmier” and the 40th anniversary of the adaptation of his critically acclaimed novel, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” into a made-for-TV movie in 1974 that won nine Emmy awards.  His novel, “A Lesson Before Dying,” published in 1993, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.
             For more information on the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, visit BRAF.org.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New history books document Whitney Plantation, Ursuline Sisters, Attakapas Poste

            The Whitney Plantation Museum opens today, an indigo and sugar plantation upriver from New Orleans once belonging to the Haydel family. Ibrahima Seck, a member of the history department of Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal, and the academic director of the Whitney Heritage Plantation Corporation, has written “Bouki Fait Gombo: A History of the Slave Population of Habitation Haydel (Whitney Plantation) Louisiana, 1750-1860,” published by UNO Press.
            Using the “Habitation Haydel” as an example, the book is an exploration of slavery and its impact on southern culture, tracing the route of African slaves to the “German Coast” just upriver from New Orleans and examining slaves’ daily life on the plantation. At the book’s center are the stories of the culinary and musical cultures that grew out of slaves’ desires to reconnect with their home.
            Seck writes in the book’s introduction, “The history of slavery should not only be the history of deportation and hard labor in the plantations. Beyond these painful memories, we should always dig deep enough to find out how Africans contributed tremendously to the making of Southern culture and American identity.”

Attakapas Poste
            Donald J. Arceneaux has published “Attakapas Post in 1769: The First Nominal Census of Colonial Settlers in Southwest Louisiana” that translates two documents made in the twilight years of the Attakapas Post.  The documents, both written in French, are the circa-1769 census and a Dec. 9, 1769, oath of allegiance. The book offers details of early settlement in Southwest Louisiana at the beginning of the Spanish colonial period, including identifying the settlers and slaves listed with an index for genealogists. The 70-page book that includes portions of original documents is available from Claitor’s Publishing Division in Baton Rouge.

Ursuline songs
            The oldest known musical document in Louisiana history has been published for the first time by The Historic New Orleans Collection. “French Baroque Music of New Orleans: Songs from the Ursuline Convent (1736)” features a full-color facsimile of an 18th century illustrated collection of songs, which the Ursuline convent received in 1754.
            The Ursuline Sisters were the first Catholic nuns to arrive in the New World and were among the earliest European settlers of Louisiana. Their mission included educating young women, many of them the daughters of French colonists. The songs, called contrafacta, could be considered baroque versions of remixes: poets took popular tunes by leading composers, such as Jean-Baptiste Lully and François Couperin, and changed the lyrics from secular to sacred. Women and the Catholic faithful were the intended audience for these compositions, the idea being that devotional texts would allow them to enjoy the pleasures of current music without compromising their virtue.
             “This document provides an unprecedented look behind the walls of the Ursuline convent and school,” said Molly Reid, project editor for the book. “These women and girls, far from home in a new environment, were able to enjoy the pleasures of popular music and the connection to their homeland because of these songs.”
             The songs are accompanied by five scholarly essays — including four in English and one in French — by Jennifer Gipson, Andrew Justice, Alfred E. Lemmn, Mark McKnight and Jean Duron, edited by Alfred E. Lemmon.
            For more information, visit www.hnoc.org/frenchbaroquemusicbook.

Book events
            Author’s Alley Book Sale feature signings by area authors from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at South Regional Library in Lafayette.
            Author Wendy Duhe Woods and illustrator Sherry Rushing Martin will be signing copies of their bilingual children’s book, “Welcome Home Indigeaux: A Louisiana Adventure” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Winter Wonderland Festival at St. Joseph’s Church in French Settlement.
            Marvin Allen, manager of the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel of New Orleans, will talk about his new book, “Magic in a Shaker: A Year of Spirited Libations” and the history of prohibition at 7 p.m. Tuesday at East Bank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon Ave. in Metairie.
            Ralph Adamo, Ava Leavall Haymoth, Gina Ferrara and Andy Young will share their poetry at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
            Ron Drez signs “The War of 1812: Conflict and Deception: The British Attempt to Seize New Orleans and Nullify the Louisiana Purchase” at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.
            Muralist Robert Dafford and photographer Philip Gould will discuss their new book, “The Public Art of Robert Dafford,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at South Regional Library in Lafayette, part of Bayou State Book Talks, a free series offered by the UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies and the Lafayette Public Library System.
            Gretna author Jennifer Comeaux will sign her latest book about ice skating titled “Crossing the Ice” from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday at the Gretna Art Walk and Farmer's Market. Her first trilogy included “Life on the Edge,” “Edge of the Past”' and “Fighting for the Edge.” “Crossing the Ice” begins a new series.
            Richard Ford signs “Let Me Be Frank with You: A Frank Bascombe Book” at 5 p.m., followed by a reading at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss., and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.

            Addie K. Martin and Jeremy Martin sign copies of “Southeast Louisiana Food: A Seasoned Tradition” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today at the West Baton Rouge Museum Holiday Open House, 845 N Jefferson Ave. in Port Allen and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd. in Baton Rouge.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Louisiana authors win 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards, Zachary Lazar makes New York Times list

            Goodreads announced the winners of the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards decided by readers.             
            Two Louisiana authors made the list!
            Mo Willems’s “The Pigeon Needs a Bath!” won for best picture book and Ann Rice’s “Prince Lestat” won for best horror novel.
             Finalists include Greg Iles’s “Natchez Burning;” Laura Lane McNeal for “Doll-baby;” James Lee Burke’s “Wayfaring Stranger;” Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators;” Robin Roberts’ “Everybody’s Got Something;” and the graphic novel “Chew, Vol. 8: Family Recipes” by John Layman and Rob Guillory.
      In other news, New Orleans novelist Zachary Lazar made The New York Times' list of “100 Notable Books of 2014” for his third novel, “I Pity the Poor Immigrant.” You can read more about his book here.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.