Sunday, August 31, 2014

Opelousas's Ken Wheaton enjoys Cajun family dynamics in 'Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears'

             Ken Wheaton of Opelousas, author of “The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival” set in St. Landry Parish, has published a new novel with Louisiana ties, “Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears,” where a freak accident forces a New Yorker to return to Louisiana and confront her Cajun past. The novel centers on Katie-Lee Fontenot, who goes by Katherine Fontenot in her new New York life. She’s one of several sisters with equally hyphenated names and two brothers hailing from St Landry Parish, a place no doubt where Wheaton mines his colorful characters. Katie-Lee’s upbringing around strong family members and a tragic incident in her youth forces her north and she’s not happy about heading home again years later. Her trip back to Acadiana forces her to confront old truths and a few misunderstandings, not to mention those crazy Cajuns she calls family. It’s a fun book with a few laugh out loud moments, not to mention heartfelt touches that invariably lie beneath tough sibling behavior. Many Louisianans will recognize family members. Wheaton, who now lives in Brooklyn, is the managing editor of the trade publication Advertising Age.

New releases
            Emmy Award-winning documentary film producer Sally Rosenthal pens a fun tale about a group of frogs who assist Minnie Feinsilver when she drops her pot of matzo ball soup in “Matzo Frogs.” Since Minnie had to help a friend with a broken leg, she losses her Shabbat meal and her cousins are due that evening. The neighborhood frogs hear of her predicament and decide to help out, putting together matzo ball soup following Minnie’s kosher recipe. They even throw in some matzo in the shape of a frog, which tips Minnie off on who made the soup. In payment , Minnie leaves a bowl on the window that night. David Sheldon illustrates the charming book about Jewish traditions told in an unusual way.
            Best-selling author Laura Childs travels to New Orleans during Halloween for No. 12 in her Scrapbook Mystery series. Scrapbook maven Carmela Bertrand discovers the owner of Oddities Antiques murdered and a Napoleon death mask stolen in “GossamerGhost.” In addition to a good mystery, there are scrapbooking tips and New Orleans-style recipes.
            New Iberia librarian and romance author Lynn Shur has published several new romances, the latest “Always Yellow Roses,” released this week. The book concerns a feud between the Courville and Niles families in the 19th century. More than 100 years later, reincarnated lovers are destined to end the feud with their marriage but hatred still flares between the two families.  
            Carol McMichael Reese has authored “New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning” with contributors, looking at the variety of responses from politicians, writers, architects and planners in the restoration of New Orleans and examining how to plan for the future. She and several contributors will discuss and sign the book at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

Lafayette Gazette
            The Lafayette Gazette newspaper was established in 1893, representing a faction of the Democratic Party opposed to the Democractic Party view of the Lafayette Advertiser. The weekly paper was published on Saturdays and existed until 1908, when it merged with the Advertiser. The original bound papers were kept intact by Jeanne Mouton Jeanmard and William H. Mouton and will be donated to the Special Collections Archives of UL’s Edith Garland Dupre Library at 10 a.m. Friday in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room. Digital scans of the Gazette can viewed online here.

Author Dinner
            The Friends of the Lafayette Library have chosen award-winning newspaper columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson to the Friends’ annual Author Dinner. Johnson is the author of “Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana” and “Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming.” The dinner will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Petroleum Club. For information or to order tickets, call 984-8661.

Fearless Voices
            “Fearless Voices of the Struggle: A Spoken Word Stage Play,” directed by Tony Wilson, features a cast of spoken word artists, writers and performers collaborating on this exhibit of activism through art that tackles themes such as sexual assault, relationships, religion and racism. The performance begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at UL’s Burke Hall. Tickets are $15.

Library cards
            September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, a time to remind people that enjoying your local library is the best value imaginable. Library cards are free and are the gateway to wonderful services, such as computer usage, study rooms, videos, music, downloadable materials and so much more. Of course, it’s also filled with wonderful books. All you need is a form of ID and this magical kingdom is yours. What are you waiting for?

Book events
            Katy Simpson Smith of Jackson, Miss., will sign copies of her debut novel, “TheStory of Land and Sea,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at Maple Street Book Shops in New Orleans and at 6 p.m. Thursday at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Smith has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and is the author of “We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835.”
            Author Johnette Downing will perform a concert at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Visitor’s Center from 11 a.m. to noon Friday, Sept. 5, with a booksigning to follow at noon at A Tisket a Tasket on Decatur Street in New Orleans.
            Gary Stewart and Susan Mustafa sign “The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father... and Finding the Zodiac Killer” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Barnes & Noble, 5705 Johnston St, in Lafayette.
            The Bayouland Storytellers Guild of Southwest Louisiana present folktales and fairy tales for ages 4-12 at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at the South Regional Library. Donations of canned fruit and vegetables will be accepted, to benefit the Council on Aging-Meals on Wheels Program.
            The Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services will offer a “Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive Seminar” Sept. 15-21 at the Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center in Olive Branch, Miss. Literary agent Donald Maass, author of the “Writing the Breakout Novel,” will teach daily classes. Registration is limited to 35 students. For information, visit http://www.free-expressions.com.


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