Sunday, August 9, 2015

Two family histories showcase life in Louisiana

             Two non-fiction books out now by Louisiana authors delve into unique family history: “Three Winds Blowing” by Randy Willis, an examination of Rev. Joseph Willis, who was the first non-Catholic to preach west of the Mississippi, and “People of the Good God” by Hardy Jones, a memoir about growing up Cajun.
            Willis, a native of Oakdale who now resides in the Texas Hill Country, is the descendant of Rev. Joseph Willis and considers himself the family historian. He has published others books on Rev. Willis, including “The Apostle to the Opelousas: The Story of Joseph Willis” and is co-author of “Twice a Slave,” the latter of which was made into a play
Rev. Willis established churches in southern and central Louisiana and was friends of William Prince Ford, the first owner of Solomon Northup, narrator of “Twelve Years a Slave,” and James Bowie. Rev. Willis and Ford founded Spring Hill Baptist Church in Forest Hill; Bowie was a neighbor. Randy Willis relates these connections in his fictional account, “Three Winds Blowing.”
Randy Willis is an ASCAP-affiliated songwriter and president of Quadra Record Company. He is also the founder of Operation Warm Heart which feeds and clothes the homeless, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Our Mission Possible, that seeks to empower at-risk teens in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Joseph Willis Institute at Louisiana College.
Hardy Jones may have been born in Florida but it didn’t take long for him to realize he was Cajun through his mother’s side and a blend of nationalities — like most of Louisiana — through his Felice family of southwest Louisiana. He realizes his heritage and identity in his 20s, relating this unique connection to food, culture and music while living in an Anglo world through his memoir, “People of the Good God.”
            Jones received his B.A. in English from LSU, an MFA in creative nonfiction from The University of Memphis and a Ph.D. in English from UL-Lafayette. His previous book is the novel “Every Bitter Thing” and Hardy’s short story “A New Bike for Little Mike” and his personal essay “Dry Gumbo” were nominated for 2015 Pushcart Prizes. Hardy is an associate professor of English and the director of creative writing at Cameron University. For more information, visit www.hardyjoneswriting.com.

Book news
            The UL-Lafayette Thursday Night Reading Series will now make its home at Artmosphere, 902 Johnston St. in downtown Lafayette. The event will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 pm Thursdays.
            The 13th edition of “The Louisiana Review,” a magazine of poetry, short stories, essays, reviews, plays and art has been published by the Division of Liberal Arts on the LSU Eunice campus. Copies of the Review are $5, available by sending a check for $8 for the cost of the book and shipping to The Louisiana Review, P.O. Box 1129, Eunice, LA 70535. For information on submitting contributions for the 2016 issue, visit www.lsue.edu/la-review.
            The summer issue of the Southern Review, which publishes literary voices from around the world from the LSU campus, is now available and features a special section titled “Writing Katrina: Ten Years After” with works by poet Alison Pelegrin, author playwright John Biguenet and filmmaker Zack Godshall. As always, the book is filled with artwork, poetry, essays and more. To purchase a copy, visit http://thesouthernreview.org.

Chere Dastugue Coen is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.