2017 Louisiana Literati

Join us at the Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon, Metairie,  for Louisiana Literati:  Celebrating Our Literary Heritage. Every fall we join the library for a season of humanities discussions and presentations including author interviews, book signings, and Q&A sessions.

Louisiana Literati is co-produced by the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in collaboration with the Jefferson Parish Library. Books by participating authors are made available by the Friends of Jefferson Public Library and are for sale during the programs.

For more information regarding these presentations, contact Chris Smith, manager of Adult Programming for the library, at (504) 889-8143 or wcsmith@jefferson.lib.la.us.

Cemeteries of New Orleans, by Peter Dedek | 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5


In The Cemeteries of New Orleans, Peter B. Dedek reveals the origins and evolution of the Crescent City’s world-famous necropolises, exploring both their distinctive architecture and their cultural impact. Spanning centuries, this body of research takes readers from muddy fields of crude burial markers to extravagantly designed cities of the dead, illuminating a vital and vulnerable piece of New Orleans’s identity.

Where many histories of New Orleans cemeteries have revolved around the famous people buried within them, Dedek focuses on the marble cutters, burial society members, journalists, and tourists who shaped these graveyards into internationally recognizable emblems of the city. In addition to these cultural actors, Dedek’s exploration of cemetery architecture reveals the impact of ancient and medieval grave traditions and styles, the city’s geography, and the arrival of trained European tomb designers, such as the French architect J. N. B. de Pouilly in 1833 and Italian artist and architect Pietro Gualdi in 1851.

As Dedek shows, the nineteenth century was a particularly critical era in the city’s cemetery design. Notably, the cemeteries embodied traditional French and Spanish precedents, until the first garden cemetery—the Metairie Cemetery—was built on the site of an old racetrack in 1872. Like the older walled cemeteries, this venue served as an expression of fraternal and ethnic unity, a backdrop to exuberant social celebrations, and a destination for sightseeing excursions. During this time, cultural and religious practices, such as the celebration of All Saints’ Day and the practice of Voodoo rituals, flourished within the spatial bounds of these resting places. Over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, episodes of neglect and destruction gave rise to groups that aimed to preserve the historic cemeteries of New Orleans—an endeavor, which, according to Dedek, is still wanting for resources and political will.

Peter B. Dedek, author of Historic Preservation for Designers and Hip to the Trip: A Cultural History of Route 66, is an associate professor at Texas State University, where he teaches history of design, historic preservation, and architectural history.

Carnival in Louisiana, by Brian Costello | 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 12

From the revelers on horseback in Eunice and Mamou to the miles-long New Orleans parade routes lined with eager spectators shouting “Throw me something, mister!,” no other Louisiana tradition celebrates the Pelican State’s cultural heritage quite like Mardi Gras. In Carnival in Louisiana, Brian J. Costello offers Mardi Gras fans an insider’s look at the customs associated with this popular holiday and travels across the state to explore each area’s festivities.

Costello brings together the stories behind the tradition, gleaned from his research and personal involvement in Carnival. His fascinating tour of the season’s parades, balls, courirs, and other events held throughout Louisiana go beyond the well-known locales for Mardi Gras. Exploring the diverse cultural roots of state-wide celebrations, Costello includes festivities in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Roads, and Shreveport. From venerable floats to satirical parades, exclusive events to spontaneous street parties, Carnival in Louisiana is an indispensable guide for Mardi Gras attendees, both veteran Krewe members seeking to expand their horizons and first-time tourists hoping to experience of all sides of Louisiana’s favorite season.

Brian J. Costello, an eleventh generation Louisianan, has written many books on the state’s history. He is the historian of the Pointe Coupee Parish Library Historic Materials Collection and he reigned as King of the 2009 New Roads Lions Mardi Gras Carnival.

New Orleans: The First 300 Years by Errol Laborde7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 19

New Orleans: The First 300 Years is a joint venture between public television station WYES and Pelican Publishing Company with the support of the Historic New Orleans Collection. Twenty-two authors have contributed to 23 topics that explore the city over the last 300 years. “The book was inspired by The Past As Prelude, a publication released in 1968 on the occasion of the city’s 250th anniversary and published by Pelican Publishing Company and Tulane University. Distinguished journalist Hodding Carter was the editor. “Like that book, this publication will cover a range of topics,” says project editor Errol Laborde. “But it will also be visual containing great writing and images.” Book production supervision is by WYES Executive Producer Peggy Scott Laborde.

Errol Laborde, editor and publisher of Louisiana Life magazine, has won more than twenty-five New Orleans Press Club Awards for outstanding journalism since 1972. A producer and panelist on public television’s Informed Sources, an award-winning program that explores local politics, Laborde also is the founding president and a current board member of the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.

Mending from Memory: Sewing in Louisiana by Susan Tucker and Lee Grue | 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 26

The contributors of this anthology are seamstresses, tailors, sewers, beaders, knitters, quiltmakers, and weavers. They describe an exuberance for the stitch, the knowledge that the lot can be solved by creativity with cloth, and the benefits of skills that make them content enough in well-lived lives. They are resourceful in their everyday pursuits, or as contributor Martha McFerren writes, they find that sewing is “a useful beauty.”

Another contributor, Arthur Pfister, says that the world spins around on “thimbles, pins, needles, tape measures, rulers, ribbons, scissors, spools of thread, yards of material from bolts of fabric of all patterns ‘on account’ from Mr. Levine (the rag man), zippers, buttons, and notions of all manner and stripes . . . from Krauss, McCrory’s, Woolworth’s, and Maison Blanche Annex.” This is the universe of people who sew, especially those in Louisiana.

Lee Meitzen Grue is a poet and a writer and long-time editor of the New Laurel Review. Susan Tucker is an archivist and editor whose works include Telling Memories Among Southern Women (1988) and other books on material culture and women’s education.

Cityscapes of New Orleans by Richard Campanella | 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2

Exploring the Crescent City from the ground up, Richard Campanella takes readers on a journey toward explaining the city’s distinct urbanism and eccentricities. He reveals the why behind the where, delving into the historical and cultural forces that have shaped the spaces of New Orleans for more than three centuries.

For Campanella, every bewildering street grid and linguistic quirk has a story to tell about the landscape of Louisiana and its geography. It starts with an examination of neighborhoods, from the origins of faubourgs and wards to the impact of the slave trade on patterns of residence. Campanella explains how fragments of New Orleans streets continue to elude Google Maps and why humble Creole cottages sit alongside massive Greek Revival mansions. He considers the roles of modern urban planning, environmentalism, and preservation, all of which continue to influence the layout of the city and its suburbs. In the book’s final section, Campanella explores the impact of natural disasters as well-known as Hurricane Katrina and as unfamiliar as “Sauve’s Crevasse,” an 1849 levee break that flooded more than 200 city blocks.

Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane School of Architecture, is the author of nearly 200 articles about New Orleans and 10 books, including Bourbon Street: A HistoryBienville’s Dilemma, and Geographies of New Orleans. The only two-time winner of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year Award, Campanella has also received the Louisiana Library Association’s Literary Award, the Williams Prize for Louisiana History from The Historic New Orleans Collection, and the Monroe Fellowship from Tulane’s New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. In 2016, the French government named Campanella as Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques (Knight in the Order of Academic Palms).

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