Friday, January 31, 2014

New Iberia well represented in unique collection

             Years ago a group known as the “Fabulous Four” — Al Landry, Smitty Landry, R.C. Sealy and Clara Lourd O’Niell — entertained the Iberia Cultural Resources Association with tales of growing up in Iberia Parish. Two years later a similar group —Shirley Lemaire, Claire Mire, Ann Bolner Patout and Juliane Deare Schexnayder — did the same. At the latter event, Daily Iberian publisher Will Chapman came up with a grand idea, to turn these stories into a book.
            The result is “New Iberia, What Can’t Be Lost: Stories and Recollection from Iberia Parish, Louisiana,” published by the Iberia Cultural Resources Association. But the stories aren’t limited to the fabulous eight. Patout, Dianne Mouton Landry and Cathy Voorhies Indest, president of the association, wanted to include more tales from the community. In the end, Landry conducted more than 60 interviews from parish residents.
            The stories run the gamut, from reminiscences of a particular section of the parish to family stories and oral histories. Readers will learn of towboats, schools, plantations, World War II and the Jewish community — among so much more. What makes this book special are the people, their honest voices, their lives and experiences and what growing up in Iberia Parish meant to them.
            I was enchanted by John Albert Landry’s story of opening Lagniappe Too Café after being downsized by an offshore oil company. “Mama Lou” Douglas couldn’t have children but raised some that she took in from others not able to, in addition to caring for a brother. She was one of 17 children herself. There’s even the aunt of my niece, Patricia Dugas Barras, describing growing up in Loreauville and her beloved grandparents, allowing me a glimpse inside the family I inherited.
            “New Iberia What Can’t Be Lost” is a must for Iberia Parish residents, but it’s a treat for any reader who loves a good tale. This gem of a book proves that history is more than facts and timelines, but the stories of all people and their everyday lives.
            The book can be purchased at the Bayou Teche Museum, Books Along The Teche and Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia as well as online at

Grand masters
            Robert Crais of Louisiana and Carolyn Hart have been chosen to receive the 2014 Grand Masters Award by the Mystery Writers of America. The award is the highest honor granted by the organization and was established to acknowledge important contributions to the genre. Crais and Hart will be presented with their awards at the Edgar Awards Banquet May 1 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
            Crais worked as an amateur filmmaker and short story writer, later moving to Hollywood and working on TV crime shows such as “Hill Street Blues,” “Cagney & Lacey” and “Miami Vice.” In the mid-80s he began writing novels, creating the character of Elvis Cole. His breakout novel, “The Monkey’s Raincoat,” was nominated for The Best First Novel Edgar Award. He has written 11 books in the Elvis Cole series including “Free Fall,” “L.A. Requiem” and “The Watchman.” His latest is “Suspect.”
            Joe Pike, Elvis’ partner, and Carol Starkey, an LAPD bomb expert, are recurring characters and also have their own books.
            Hart is the author of numerous young adult novels and the “Death on Demand” series, which includes “Southern Ghost,” “Death Walked In” and “Dead Days of Summer.” Her most recent is “Dead, White and Blue” published in 2013. She writes two other series (the Henrie O mysteries and the Bailey Ruth Raeburn series), and has published a total of 11 books in both. She has written numerous standalone suspense novels including “Letter From Home,” which was awarded the Agatha for the Best Mystery Novel of 2003 and was a New York Times notable book.            
            For more information on Mystery Writers of America, visit

Teen Video Challenge
            The State Library of Louisiana again offers the Collaborative Summer Library 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 “Spark a Reaction.” The deadline for video submission is March 10. The winning video from each participating state will be used by public libraries nationally to promote summer reading. The creators of the winning state video will be awarded $275 and their associated public library will receive prizes worth $125 from the CSLP and Upstart. To view the 2013 videos and additional information, visit Rules and details for the challenge can be found on the State Library’s website,

Black History Month
            In celebration of Black History Month, the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library is hosting author Kim Marie Vaz for a discussion of “The ‘Baby Dolls’: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition” at noon Thursday, Feb. 6, at the State Library Seminar Center. Vaz’s book is a history of the Million Dollar Baby Dolls, one of the first women’s organizations to participate in Mardi Gras, and its post-Hurricane Katrina comeback. The “Baby Dolls” traces the tradition as it spread to different New Orleans neighborhoods and empowered women. The “Baby Dolls” served as the basis for a major installation on the Baby Doll tradition at The Presbytere museum as part of the permanent Carnival exhibit.Vaz is associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and education professor at Xavier University in New Orleans. Registration is not required for this free event and attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, 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