Monday, December 2, 2019

Seven books set in New Orleans that go beyond Mardi Gras

J.R. Ramakrishnan is a writer and editor.

Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Electric Literature, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's, amongst other publications. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK] and Mixed Company.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books set in New Orleans that go beyond Mardi Gras, including:
We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

We Cast A Shadow is meant to be set in a white supremacist future America, where a black man is attempting to get his biracial son a “demelanization” procedure to secure the boy’s future. The opening scene of a soiree in a mansion on the “Avenue of the Streetcars,” however, reads as only ever so slightly out there. The unnamed narrator, a lawyer, notes: “She was one of the good ones, even if, as she once drunkenly admitted to me in a stalled elevator, she sometimes fantasized about wearing blackface and going on a crime spree. After shattering storefront windows and mugging tourists by the Cathedral, she would wash the makeup from her face, content in the knowledge that the authorities would pin her deeds on some thug who actually had it coming.” Ruffin, a former lawyer, paints the scene of the city’s Uptown surrealism with a mini museum of multicultural gods and a library that includes a title called The Hip Hop Ontologist’s View of Leda and the Swan, an especially intriguing title I’d love to borrow from the author. By bending reality without excess throughout, Ruffin’s sleight of hand with the peculiarities of New Orleans, which goes unnamed in the book, is even more hilarious. But what he cuts apart about race in America, now and in the book’s future setting (where the past is not even past in elements like the Dreadlock Ordinance and the Black Panther-like ADZE group), is unsurprisingly not easy.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue