Thursday, September 2, 2010

Five books about New Orleans

Tom Piazza writes for Treme, the new HBO show from The Wire creator David Simon. He is the author of nine books, including the novel City Of Refuge and the post-Katrina book Why New Orleans Matters.

He discussed books on New Orleans with Daisy Banks for FiveBooks. One book on his list:
Spirit World by Michael P Smith

Smith was a very important figure in New Orleans; he died in 2009. He was a photographer who made a pioneering effort to understand the traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians, the spiritualist churches of New Orleans and the Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs – in other words, the tap roots of African-American and Creole culture in New Orleans. He referred to these traditions as ‘cultural wetlands’ – places that hadn’t yet been ruined by commercial exploitation.

All these different elements of New Orleans culture have a kind of umbilical relationship, one to another. Smith was from a blue-blood uptown family in New Orleans, so it was in no way automatic that he would have had an interest in these traditions of black New Orleans. He didn’t just photograph the churches, the Mardi Gras Indians and the Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, although he did that brilliantly; he also interviewed people and contributed crucial information to our understanding of those traditions.
Read about the other books on the list at FiveBooks.

--Marshal Zeringue