Sunday, November 27, 2016

DeSantis explains little-known Thibodaux massacre

On Nov. 23, 1887, white vigilantes angered by striking sugar cane workers gunned down black men and women in their homes and on the streets of Thibodaux for more than two hours. This horrific tragedy that turned into an ugly secret few would later speak of is the basis of John DeSantis’ book, “The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike.” The number of those killed has never been known — an inquest report filed by the parish coroner stated eight victims — but DeSantis believes the number could have been as high as 60. Some of the victims included two elderly people, one a woman. Even the bodies of the slain are unaccounted for, some believed to have been buried in unmarked graves. The event forced an exodus of African Americans from the city. DeSantis offers Louisiana history of slavery, sugar cane production and the Civil War aftermath to give readers an idea of the environment and moods of white citizens reacting to striking workers. But the most chilling part of the book is his recollection of a journalist asking black Thibodaux residents if they had recalled the event and all but one, an elderly woman, did not. Even in this day and age, the older resident refused to speak of the massacre in fear of retaliation. DeSantis is the senior staff writer at the Times of Houma and a former city editor at the Thibodaux Daily Comet. His other books include “For the Color of His Skin: The Murder of Yusuf Hawkins and The Trial of Bensonhurst” and “The New Untouchables: How America Sanctions Police Violence.” He will discuss and sign “The Thibodaux Massacre” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

Pelican books
Pelican Publishing of New Orleans offers the following fall releases:

Linda Thurman of Hammond offers part memoir and part expose in “Hollywood South: Glamour, Gumbo, and Greed.” Thurman has worked in the entertainment industry in New Orleans, Dallas, New York, London, Moscow and Los Angeles and served as co-owner of Emerald Bayou Studios.

Kathy Finn of New Orleans has penned the biography “Tom Benson: A Billionaire’s Journey.” Finn is a journalist with Reuters news agency and a columnist and feature writer for regional publications.

Capt. Robert Mueller of Mandeville details the post-Hurricane Katrina rescue operations in “Coast Guard Heroes of New Orleans,” with a foreword by Rear Adm. Joseph Castillo, the Eighth District chief of operations in New Orleans and who commanded the Coast Guard’s Katrina evacuation and rescue efforts. Before retiring, Mueller led USCG surface rescue operations post-Katrina.

Writer and historian Christopher G. Pena, a native of New Orleans, looks at “The Strange Case of Dr. Etienne Deschamps: Murder in the New Orleans French Quarter.” A 12-year-old immigrant was found dead at Deschamps’ home along with the deranged dentist, who believed a young virgin would help him find Jean Lafitte’s treasure. 

Joel L. Fletcher’s “Ken and Thelma: The Story of ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’” is now in paperback. Fletcher is a Louisiana native and worked with John Kenndy Toole (author of “A Confederacy of Dunces”) during his tenure at UL-Lafayette.

Book news
From left to right: Hebert, Ayika, Jackson

The University of Louisiana Monroe’s English program hosted its annual Best Freshman Essay Awards Ceremony Nov. 14, an essay contest held each fall for English 1001 students to demonstrate their writing abilities and creativity. The winners were first place, Princess Ayika for her essay titled “The Color of My Skin is Not Me;” second place, Even Hebert for his essay titled “Blind Hysteria” and third place, Allison Jackson for her essay titled “Another Day Another Dog.” The essays are written based on a unit taught alongside Writing Today and the summer reader “This I Believe,” essay selections from National Public Radio.

Katie Manning’s “Tasty Other,” a collection of poems, has won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Manning earned a PhD in English from UL-Lafayette and teaches as an associate professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is the author of four chapbook-length poetry collections: “A Door with a Voice” (Agape Editions), “The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman” (Point Loma Press), “I Awake in My Womb” (Yellow Flag Press) and “Tea with Ezra” (Boneset Books). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review. The book is scheduled for release this month.

And good news for those of you who asked for paperback copies of my books, written under the pen name of Cherie Claire. My “Cajun Embassy” series of contemporary romance is now available in trade paperback at online bookstores. The three books that make up the Cajun Embassy series — “Ticket to Paradise,” “Damn Yankees” and “Gone Pecan,” the latter set in Lafayette —follows three Columbia journalism coeds homesick for Louisiana who find comfort at school in a bowl of Cajun gumbo. Each book spotlights these dedicated friends as they make their way into the world. Because love — and a good gumbo — cures everything.  
P.S. There’s a gumbo recipe in each book.


Book events Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2017

S.R. Perricone discusses and signs his book, “The Shadows of Nazareth,” at 2 p.m. today at Garden District Bookshop in New Orleans.

Lyrically Inclined Open Mic will be Monday at The Brass Room, 1301 Surrey St; Lafayette.

New Orleans author Chris Tusa takes a look into an alternate reality for New Orleans with his book “In the City of Fallen Stars” at 6 p.m. Monday at Octavia Books of New Orleans

The Writers Guild meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes and Noble Lafayette.

Maple Street Books of New Orleans celebrates the release of Elizabeth Gross’ new chapbook, “Dear Escape Artist,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Local writers Anya Groner and Carlus Henderson will join her.


Bill Lascher, author of “Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific,” will discuss his book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center of New Orleans.

In conjunction with The Historic New Orleans Collection’s free exhibition “Goods of Every Description: Shopping in New Orleans, 1825–1925,” historian, author and former THNOC curator John Magill will present a look at the history of Christmas shopping on New Orleans’s historic Canal Street at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The illustrated presentation will examine variety and department stores—including D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche—local retailers such as Adler’s and Rubenstein’s and the holiday decorations that lined the famous shopping street. Markets, Santa Claus, elves, the coming of Christmas trees to the United States and the ever-popular Mr. Bingle will all be discussed. Admission is free, and reservations are recommended.

George Graham signs “Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana: Recipes, Stories and Photographs” from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Kitchenary during the Oil Center’s Festival of Lights in Lafayette, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Octavia Books of New Orleans and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Mandeville.

The Conundrum bookstore in St. Francisville celebrates its one-year anniversary on Saturday as part of the city’s Christmas in The Country celebration.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.