Kim Vaz, author of “Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans,” and Ladee Hubbard, author of “The Talented Ribkins,” will discuss their new books at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon, Metairie. This event is free and open to the public.
Kim Vaz, Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans
One of the first women’s organizations to mask and perform during Mardi Gras, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls redefined the New Orleans carnival tradition. Tracing their origins from Storyville-era brothels and dance halls to their re-emergence in post-Katrina New Orleans, author Kim Vaz uncovers the fascinating history of the “raddy-walking, shake-dancing, cigar-smoking, money-flinging” ladies who strutted their way into a predominantly male establishment.
The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization of African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s red-light district to compete with other black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Part of this event involved the tradition of masking, in which carnival groups create a collective identity through costuming. Their baby doll costumes—short satin dresses, stockings with garters, and bonnets—set against a bold and provocative public behavior not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic.
Over time, different neighborhoods adopted the Baby Doll tradition, stirring the creative imagination of black women and men across New Orleans, from the downtown Tremé area to the uptown community of Mahalia Jackson. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through 100 years with photos, articles, and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups, emphasizing these organizations’ crucial contribution to Louisiana’s cultural history.
Kim Marie Vaz is the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of education at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her area of research is the use of expressive arts as a response to large-group social trauma.
At 72, Johnny Ribkins shouldn’t have such problems: He’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains for Johnny.
What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African-American family that has been gifted with super powers that are rather sad, but superpowers nonetheless. For example, Johnny’s father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he’s been there or not.
In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves the Justice Committee. But when their superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.
Ladee Hubbard is the winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for the Short Story. She lives in New Orleans. The Talented Ribkins is her first novel.
For more information regarding this presentation, contact Chris Smith, Manager of Adult Programming for the library, at 504-889-8143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Louisiana Book News is written by award-winning author Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes Louisiana romances and mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her first book in each series is FREE to download as an ebook, including "Emilie," book one of The Cajun Series, "Ticket to Paradise," book one of The Cajun Embassy series and "A Ghost of a Chance," the first Viola Valentine mystery.