Sunday, January 10, 2016

Educator Alice J. Voorhies embraces 'lighter side of life' in her latest, a touching New Iberia memoir

This week, Lafayette educator and awesome writer Elizabeth Nehrbass offers a guest review:
In the prologue to her new book “Once Upon a Time in New Iberia,” Alice Voorhies writes, “I come from a schizophrenic family tree. One side of the tree was made up of cool, distant, patrician people….Then there was the other side of the tree.” And while Alice’s stories individually describe the tug of where to belong —with the highly literate, “refined, mannerly, and articulate” Voorhies’ clan or the “raucous, fun-loving Vedrines” — together they demonstrate how the impulses of those two branches can work themselves into perfect balance. Through the grace and wit of her stories, Alice’s memoir makes clear the answer to her childhood question about who she was destined to be: she has become the best of both.
Voorhies chronicles the varied stories of her life thus far, from hysterical shenanigans she and her brother Paul pulled as children and teenagers growing up in New Iberia to the privileges of life with the “Magnolias” at Mount Carmel Academy, where Father Moag and the nuns (“Math nun” excluded) provided a strong intellectual and religious foundation for her college years at ULL, and an adulthood devoted to working with special needs children, first at the Stewart Institute in New Orleans and later back at ULL as teaching faculty and assessment team member. Her vignettes along the way are powerful and poignant.
Voorhies touches on some heavier points in her life, and what she calls “the limbo years” of trying to find her way after an impulsive decision, but on the whole, the book represents a choice to embrace the lighter side of life and to honor the deep connections with others that pull us through those harder times. She writes, “In looking back, I see that I spent much of my time laughing,” and with her memories of 111 Robertson St., the “Magnolias,” Girard Hall, Avery Island and Cypremort Point, she shares the laughter.
The book closes as Voorhies is contemplating retirement from her active life at ULL, the institution that anchored her for so much of her life. Her apprehension about what lay ahead in her “golden years” is plain: “I don’t want to be a bored or boring old lady,” she confides, but at the end of such an engaging collection of stories, the reader can say, “Fat chance, Alice.” And can we hear what you’ve been up to lately?  We’re looking forward to the next installment.

Book news
Clare L. Martin of Lafayette has founded a literary magazine titled MockingHeart Review, featuring 39 poets in its inaugural issue. Martin’s debut collection of poetry, “Eating the Heart First,” was published in 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo selection and her poetry has appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Melusine, Poets and Artists and Louisiana Literature, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web for Best New Poets and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net. Read more at http://mockingheartreview.com/.
In other book news, it looks like Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans was granted a second wind. Last fall the independent bookstore located uptown announced it was closing, breaking the hearts of many devout fans. Because of a landlord agreement and investments, the bookstore will remain open for at least the first quarter of this year.
Are you a fan of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS? Now’s there’s the Masterpiece Book Club, where you can read work related to “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock,” plus news, recipes, books the cast and crew are reading and more. For more information, visit www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/podcast-book-club/.


New releases
Author Anne Butler and photographer Henry Cancienne, previous collaborators of “Louisiana Highway One” and “Louisiana Swamp Tours,” have teamed up again for “Louisiana Swamps and Marshes: Easy-Access Hikes and Drives.” The book is as much a guide to hiking areas as a tribute to the state’s natural habitats, filled with useful information and beautiful photographs.
Alan Gauthreaux and Daryl Hippensteel detail the state’s unusual homicides in “Dark Bayou: Infamous Louisiana Homicides,” published by McFarland & Co. Gauthreaux is a teacher of history and Hippensteel, a criminal justice faculty member at Delgado Community College.
Sudie Landry of Lafayette is the author of three books in the Spiritual Warfare Series — “Silent Prayer: A Spiritual Journey Toward Exposing the Occult,” “Trail of Six Roses: Supernatural Events at Mother’s Funeral” and “Mom Bradley’s Crossover: From Deathbed to Heaven.” The books are available from Cypress Cove Publishing and as ebooks through Amazon and Smashwords.com.
Terry L. Bethea has just published “Cabot the Rabbit” and “The Perfect Monkey,” books two and three in The Ark Series for children. Book one was “Why Snails Are Slow,” published in 2011. All three books are Accelerated Reader books and have been donated to elementary schools in Lafayette Parish. For more information, visit www.thearkseries.com.

Book events
Zachary Richard will read from his latest children’s book, “The Legend of L’il Red,” and performing a new song written for the book at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lafayette Public Library downtown.
Val McDermid signs and discusses her book “Splinter The Silence” with local author Greg Herren at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
            Hoda Kotb discusses and signs her book of inspiring stories “Where We Belong — Journeys That Show Us The Way” at 1 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Noble, 3721 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie and at 6 p.m. at Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St., New Orleans.

Cheré Dastugue 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.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.