in which the author discusses three recent non-fiction works in re: Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina was bad. Real bad. The Katrina body count (<2000) can’t compare with 9/11 (3000ish) or the War in Iraq (5130), but she (colloquially, Katrina is a “she,” no?) reinvented the Gulf Coast by destroying it, sparking the greatest population shift since the Civil War.
People responded to Katrina the way they respond to most bad things – they wrote a lot of books about it. There are narratives of the disaster and the disastrous response. There are novels. There are oral histories. There are photography books. There are books about race and class and FEMA’s incompetence. There are memoirs with forwards by Spike Lee. With so much Katredia (that’s “Katrina media”) to go around, where is one to spend those dollars one has allocated to memorializing this natural disaster?
1. A.D. New Orleans: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld.
I’m skeptical about graphic novels, a.k.a. comic books. (1) Does one read the panels left to right, or up and down? 2) How long must one stare at a panel before one has sufficiently absorbed the information it presents? 3) Is reading supposed to be this easy?) However, Josh Neufeld’s stark illustrations of Katrina somehow make the storm center more threatening than the average CNN weather photo. Neufeld tracks a diverse group of real New Orleanians – including a social worker, a storekeeper, and a high school senior – through the deluge with nary a Batman-esque POW! to guide them. (Because there’s a lot of water involved, there is a SPLOOSH).
Representative passage: Two carefree teenagers toss a football around in the days before the storm, speculating on its seriousness. (“So, if the storm hits Monday, we’ll definitely have it off from school – and maybe Tuesday too!”)
2. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.
Katrina does Guantanamo in the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American Muslim who stayed in NOLA through Katrina only to be arrested and held without trial. Though less artful than What is the What?, Eggers’ moving, fictionalized autobiography of a Sudanese refugee, Zeitoun does show that the need to come together in a weather-related state of emergency doesn’t mean that Bush’s War on Terror is suspended.
Representative passage: “…Zeitoun’s senses were awakened. He scanned the room for more signals. He and the three otheres were still being watched by dozens of soldiers and cops. He felt like an exotic beast, a hunters prize…Moments later, another passing solider looked at Zeitoun and muttered ‘Taliban.'”
3. Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned by Cathy Scott.
If you find yourself checking WARL’s adoption page daily, this book’s for you. It’s got 1) pets that 2) are in danger and 3) get saved, mostly. Not crying yet? You probably hate cupcakes and It’s a Wonderful Life too, right?
Representative passage: “Captain Scott was with special boat teams deployed to the Gulf Coast region on behalf of the Bear Search and Rescue Foundation in memory of his dog, who, like many other working canines, passed away from health complications developed after searching Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”