New orleans

The hell of the antebellum South: Let Us Descend, by Jesmyn Ward, reviewed

Jesmyn Ward, America’s only female two-time National Book Award winner, has had more than her share of hellish experiences to fuel her literary life. Her Mississippi-based family endured Hurricane Katrina. Salvage the Bones (2011), set during the catastrophe, was Ward’s response. Her memoir, Men We Reaped (2013), tackled her grief at losing five men close to her, including her brother, who was killed, aged 19, by a drunk driver. In January 2020, Ward’s husband died of acute respiratory distress syndrome. Ward recreates the hell of the antebellum South for the ‘stolen’ people forced into chattel slavery Hell is very much the context for her fourth novel, Let Us Descend. In

The dazzling, devious, doomed sound of James Booker

Dr John called James Booker ‘the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced’. Booker died in 1983 at 43, ruined by drugs, drink and madness. Though he appeared on plenty of other people’s records and stages — Dr John, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King — Booker recorded only three studio albums in his lifetime. Classified, recorded in October 1982 and now re-released on vinyl, was the last of them. It might not be the best of them, but it shows why Booker was one of the greats. The studio was booked for three days, but Booker had a breakdown the week before and couldn’t get a

The dark underbelly of New Orleans revealed by Hurricane Katrina

Home, as James Baldwin wrote, is perhaps ‘not a place but simply an irrevocable condition’. Sarah M. Broom’s National Book Award-winning memoir The Yellow House is a sweeping social history and condition report of the New Orleans neighbourhood in which she grew up. The youngest of 12 children in a blended household, Broom was born in 1979 in New Orleans East, seven miles from the iconic street lamps and streetcars of the French Quarter. Her mother, Ivory Mae, bought a house in 1961 with insurance money from the death of her first husband. Widowed at the age of 19 with two children and one on the way, Ivory Mae attended