Sunday, May 31, 2015

Books marks Hurricane Katrina's 10th anniversary

Hurricane season is now upon us and this August marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Naturally, there are books now being released in conjunction with the Aug. 25 milestone.
LSU Press has published “Hurricane Katrina in Transatlantic Perspective” edited by Romain Huret and Randy J. Sparks, a multidisciplinary study of the events surrounding and the legacy of Hurricane Katrina. Huret is associate professor of American history at the University of Lyon II and author of “American Tax Resisters.” Sparks is professor of history at Tulane University and author of several books, most recently “The Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey” and “Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade.”
Scholastic has produced two titles for young readers, both titled “Hurricane Katrina.” One aims toward grade two level readers that includes free digital activities and a larger picture book includes stories by Katrina survivors. Both feature the timeline of the storm from evacuation to disaster response, photos, animal stories and general information on hurricanes. The books focus almost entirely on New Orleans, however, grossly ignoring the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.
Aspiring writers, take note. You do not have to be perfect in everything you do, but there are a few secrets to making the process easier. Ruth Foote of Lafayette has published “For Shakespeare’s Stepchildren: 10 Essential Writing Tips and Techniques” that offers advice from homing writing skills to learning how to deal with criticism and rejection, from grammar shortcuts to tips on saving those invaluable thoughts that pop into your head at the most inopportune time. The book is available as a Kindle download.

LSU YA Conference
LSU will host the Young Adult Literature Conference Tuesday through Saturday in Baton Rouge. Some of the authors speaking at the conference are Kimberly Willis Holt, author of “My Louisiana Sky” and “Dear Hank Williams;” Matt de la Pena, author of “The Living” and “Curse of the Ancients;” Chris Crutcher, author of teen fiction, including “Period 8;” Joan Kaywell, an expert on preparing teachers to use young adult literature in the classroom and author of “Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics: Addressing Critical Issues in Today’s Classrooms;” Chris Crowe, author of “Presenting Mildred D. Taylor” and two books about Emmett Till, among others; and Teri Lesesne, author of “Making the Match: The Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time, 4-12.”
For more information, visit

Book events May 31-June 6
The Ollie Burns Branch Library will screen “Unbroken” at 5 p.m. Monday. Other library events include crafting bohemian-inspired jewelry, auto repair, learning how to write down memories and more; visit to view the list of events happening this week.
Internationally best-selling author Sarah Pekkanen signs “Things You Won’t Say” at 6 p.m. Monday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
Gwendolyn Knapp launches her latest book, “After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the St. James Cheese Company in New Orleans. Knapp lives in New Orleans where she edits Eater NOLA.
Bill Hancock signs “Riding With The Blue Moth” at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans. Hancock is the first full-time director of the NCAA Final Four, the first executive director of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and is currently the first executive director of the College Football Playoff.
Kimberly Willis Holt, author of “My Louisiana Sky” and “Dear Hank Williams” will speak about her books at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Baton Rouge Main Library.
Louisiana author and folklorist Donna McGee Onebane will discuss her book “The House that Sugarcane Built,” which chronicles the rise of the Burguieres family in Louisiana, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 7, at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. For information, call 234-2208.
The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society's annual prelude to the summer social season and fundraiser, Juleps in June, will be from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday at the residence of Honorary Co-Chairs Tia and James Roddy, 26 Audubon Place in New Orleans, featuring mint juleps, open bar, summer buffet supper and music. Ticket reservations can be made through, by calling (504) 524-2940 with credit card information or mailed to Faulkner Society, 624 Pirate's Alley. Proceeds benefit the Faulkner Society's literacy projects such as BIG READ and events for writers and readers.
The inaugural Walker Percy Weekend, a three-day literacy festival, will be Friday through Sunday in St. Francisville, where Percy set some of his fiction. There will be books, ideas, discussions, bourbon, crawfish and conversation among devotees of the Southern literary giant. For information, call (225) 635-6330 or (800) 789-4221.

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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cookbook Thursday: Beard cookbook of the year 'Yucatan' by Sterling an amazing feat

            The James Beard Award for the 2015 Cookbook of the Year went to the University of Texas Press’s lovely tome, “Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling. There are some cookbooks you never want to get near a stove and this is one of them, a gorgeous collection of Yucatan culinary history, photos and recipes bound in a 560-page coffee table book that’s meant to savor and explore.
            There’s so much to learn of this microcosm of Mexican cuisine (the author insists this is not Mexican food but Yucatecan), including ancient Mayan influences, neighboring culinary influences such as that from Cuba, spotlights on cooks and restaurant owners and the colorful varieties of fruits, produce, beans, spices and grains grown there, sold in the endless markets. Chapters delve into the many regions with their culinary specialties, from the “urban matrix” of Campeche, Merida and Valladolid to the Maya heartland and the more rural towns.
            Naturally, there are recipes — 275 recipes, in fact, with a handy index in back. Below is a sample recipe for Chayas Fritas, a leafy green plant that makes an excellent side dish. Chaya is considered the "miracle food" of the Mayas, according to Sterling, and is becoming more available in "southern-tier states" of the U.S.
            The good news is the cookbook of the year offers hours of reading enjoyment, especially if you’re like me who devours cookbooks such as this one sans a skillet in hand. The bad news is, you’ll not want to get this gorgeous book near a kitchen.
Sterling is founder, proprietor, chef de cuisine, and teacher at Los Dos Cooking School, the first culinary institute in Mexico devoted exclusively to Yucatecan cooking. His work at Los Dos has been featured on “The Martha Stewart Show” and “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” with Rick Bayless.

Chayas Fritas/Tsaajbi Chaay
“Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling

Prepare ahead note: Chayas fritas keeps well under refrigeration for a couple of days. Heat a bit of oil or lard in a covered skillet, add chaya, cover and cook until heated through. Use leftovers to make Huevos revueltos con chaya.

For the bacon and sofrito
2 tablespoons (30 ml) Spanish olive oil
4 oounces (114 g) smoked slab bacon, cut into large dice
1 cup (170 g) red onion, finely chopped
1 cup (140 g) red bell pepper, seeded, cut into small dice
5 medium cloves garlic (1 ounce/30 g), peeled and finely chopped
1 medium chile habanero (1/4 ounce/7 g), seeded and minced (Substitute: chile serrano)

For sautéing the chaya and finishing
10 1/2 ounces (300 g) fresh chaya leaves (Substitute: chard or kale), thick stems removed and cut into chiffonade or coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon (3 g) sea salt
1/2 tablespoon (2.5g) freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Fry bacon and sofrito. Choose a large, heavy casserole equipped with a tight-fitting lid. Heat the olive oil in the casserole, add the bacon, and cook, uncovered, over low heat until the bacon is thoroughly browned, 6-8 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside; reserve the cooking fat.
Adjust the heat to medium. Add the remaining sofrito ingredients to the reserved cooking fat and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the bell pepper is softened, 2-3 minutes.

Sauté chaya and finish. Add the chaya, stir to thoroughly incorporate into the cooked vegetables, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook 20-25 minutes, or until the chaya is tender, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Return the bacon to the casserole and toss to incorporate. Add the remaining ingredients; check the seasonings and serve.

Yield: Approximately 6 servings.

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

New book examines Poverty Point State Historic Site

           This past year Poverty Point in northeastern Louisiana was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For many, it was an honor long overdue. For others, a new discovery, for this unassuming historic site in the top corner of our state contains more than meets the eye. The roughly 345 acres was home to a Native American culture 1700 to 1100 BC, a site filled with earthen mounds and almost six miles of ridges built before the Mayan pyramids were created. It was the New York City of its time, writes Jenny Ellerbe who, along with Dr. Diana Greenlee, Poverty Point station archaeologist, have written “Poverty Point: Revealing the Forgotten City” with LSU Press.
The two have collaborated to present the many fascinating aspects of the historically significant park, from its early inhabitants to the Poverty Point Objects, otherwise known as PPOs. The book dissects the grounds, discussing the many mounds and their uses, offering explanations of the site’s circles, plaza and ridges and talks about the native customs and tools found on site. Throughout the book are Ellerbe’s many photographs, plus helpful maps and diagrams.
The book provides academic instruction but it’s a perfect guide for the layperson. For those visiting the Poverty Point site or interested in Native American culture, this helpful book is a must read.

New releases
William Joyce, the Shreveport Academy Award-winning filmmaker, bestselling author and animator, has published a new children’s book, one very close to his heart — and real life. Joyce’s “Billy Booger” is based on an experience he had in elementary school when he entered a writing contest only to be called to the principal’s office at A.C. Steere Elementary of Shreveport. His book was about a boy who believed his boogers had super powers. 
Shreveporters — and those who wish to make the trip and meet Joyce — will be the first to purchase the books in advance of its national release on June 2. Joyce will sign copies from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at Toy Fair, 4801 Line Ave. in Shreveport, inside Pierremont Mall.
Joyce cofounded Moonbot Studios in Shreveport and is the author of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” “The Numberlys” and “Rolie Polie Olie,” among many other books, which will be for sale on Saturday as well.
Stacey Comeaux Judice, Kathy Blanchard Higginbotham and Donna Sonnier Latiolais have collaborated on “Carencro,” an Images of America title by Arcadia Publishing. The book contains dozens of photographs of past citizens, businesses, homes, schools, musicians, cemeteries and much more. Readers will also learn how the town got its name, although you’ll have to decide which story makes more sense and why.
Deborah Burst of Covington delves into the spiritual side of South Louisiana with “Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo.” Readers will discover the spiritual significance of historic churches and cemeteries, the city’s voodoo practices and the state’s unique death–related customs. Burst doesn’t stray far from New Orleans so it’s not a statewide examination but lovers of New Orleans area sacred spots will find the book an interesting read. Burst will be speaking at a Save Our Cemeteries luncheon Saturday at Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans.

At the library
The annual Summer Reading Program Kickoff Celebration will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, May 29, at South Regional Library. The program will be ongoing through the end of July with more events at branch libraries. Children can register for the summer reading program at branch libraries or by calling call 981-1028 or visiting For details on the teen summer reading program, visit LPLteen.netFriday’s Summer Kickoff schedule is 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Johnette Downing “Reading Rocks;” 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Zoo-Zoom: The Little Zoo on Wheels; and 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m., magician Mitch Richard.
The Friends of the Ouachita Library’s book sale will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 29-30, at the West Ouachita Branch Library’s secret room in the back that’s chock full of books, music, movies and more. The library opens up the back room only occasionally so you won’t want to miss this opportunity to sneak in and bring home lots of book bargains. Children’s activities this week at the library include Superhero Play Day and screening of the “Rise of the Guardians” on Tuesday, a hamburger cookout on Thursday and the screening of the film “Big Hero 6 on Saturday. For more information on library events, visit
Louisiana’s 2015 statewide summer reading program will follow the theme “Heroes.” Children, teen and adult programs each have a different slogan; the children’s slogan is “Every Hero Has a Story,” the teen slogan is “Unmask” and the adult slogan is “Escape the Ordinary.”
Summer reading programs are part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a national cooperative to encourage reading throughout the summer. Those registered with the State Library’s Talking Books and Braille Library may also participate. For more information on the summer reading programs and other State Library programs, visit

Book events
Amy Conner signs her novel “Million Dollar Road” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
 The lecture “The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War” by New York Times bestselling author A.J. Baime will be from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28, at the World War II Museum in New Orleans. A reception precedes the presentation and a book signing will follow.

            Barri Bronston signs copies of “Walking New Orleans” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at Maple Street Book Shop of New Orleans.

Louisiana Book News is written by Cheré Coen, 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