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City of Refuge: A Novel

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City of Refuge: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780061238611
ISBN10: 0061238619
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

The Rooster 2009 Morning News Tournament of Books Nominee

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the heat of late summer, two New Orleans families — one black and one white — confront a storm that will change the course of their lives.

SJ Williams, a carpenter and widower, lives and works in the Lower Ninth Ward, the community where he was born and raised. His sister, Lucy, is a soulful mess, and SJ has been trying to keep her son, Wesley, out of trouble. Across town, Craig Donaldson, a Midwestern transplant and the editor of the city's alternative paper, faces deepening cracks in his own family. New Orleans' music and culture have been Craig's passion, but his wife, Alice, has never felt comfortable in the city. The arrival of their two children has inflamed their arguments about the wisdom of raising a family there.

When the news comes of a gathering hurricane — named Katrina — the two families make their own very different plans to weather the storm. The Donaldsons join the long evacuation convoy north, across Lake Pontchartrain and out of the city. SJ boards up his windows and brings Lucy to his house, where they wait it out together, while Wesley stays with a friend in another part of town.

But the long night of wind and rain is only the beginning — and when the levees give way and the flood waters come, the fate of each family changes forever. The Williamses are scattered — first to the Convention Center and the sweltering Superdome, and then far beyond city and state lines, where they struggle to reconnect with one another. The Donaldsons, stranded and anxious themselves, find shelter first in Mississippi, then in Chicago, as Craig faces an impossible choice between the city he loves and the family he had hoped to raise there.

Ranging from the lush neighborhoods of New Orleans to Texas, Missouri, Chicago, and beyond, City of Refuge is a modern masterpiece — a panoramic novel of family and community, trial and resilience, told with passion, wisdom, and a deep understanding of American life in our time.

Review:

Understanding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has obsessed New Orleans writers for three years, since the levees failed and the city struggled back to life like a dowager after a stroke. Tom Piazza wrote one of the most immediate (and still one of the best) responses to the disaster, the nonfiction book "Why New Orleans Matters." Now, he continues to explain the pull of his adopted home with "City... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Piazza tells a towering tale of self, family, and place, a story as old and heartbreaking as humankind itself." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"This emotional novel reads like a memoir, teeming with fear, anger, pathos, hope, determination, and love. It is absolutely essential reading for every American who watched and prayed through those terrible days. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Craig's and SJ's approaches to evacuation couldn't differ more, and while their competing narratives occasionally illustrate the city's race and class divide a little too schematically, the point that thousands were left to rot is brought home with kinetic intensity." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"The struggles of the two families depicted are not always well balanced, but Piazza's writing is so fresh and vital readers will feel, all over again, the outrage at the abandonment of this beloved city." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Although Piazza's intentions are clearly sincere and good, to slather a novel in sentiment only replaces one set of abstractions with another." Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"To read City of Refuge is to realize that this is what fiction is for: to take us to places the cameras can't go. The novel's characters — and what happens to them — are unforgettable, and so is the portrait of New Orleans, the city Tom Piazza clearly loves with all his large, generous heart." Richard Russo

Review:

"City of Refuge is an old-fashioned, realistic novel of New Orleans, with all the sensuousness, all the flash-point tumult, the easy-yet-hard-won virtue of the city, as well all the forthrightness, the deftness and affirming intensity of the form. People ask me when will Katrina begin to inform our art, when will imagination become essential to tell what the raw facts can't. Well, here's an answer: now. City of Refuge speaks eloquently into that silence." Richard Ford

Review:

"City of Refuge is a tremendously moving book. While reading it you will have to fight the urge to skip ahead to see what happened, and to whom. This is true even though we all know on a general level 'what happened' during Hurricane Katrina; Piazza takes what we know to a deeper, more human level. There are books that give back to art and there are books that give back to life — this book is among the latter." Mary Gaitskill

Review:

"Tom Piazza's City of Refuge is a great read — sweeping and intimate, elegiac and angry, serving as lyrical witness to the destruction and recovery of a great city." Jess Walter

Review:

"Whatever Tom Piazza writes is touched with magic. As a former longtime New Orleans resident, I was astounded at how brilliantly Piazza captured (in vivid detail) the nuances of his City of Refuge. Although this is ostensibly a Katrina novel, Piazza transcends genre or pigeonholing in what is one of the most deeply humanistic portraits of people coping with cataclysm since The Grapes of Wrath." Douglas Brinkley

Synopsis:

From the award-winning novelist and author of Why New Orleans Matters comes a breathtaking novel of two families, one white and one black, whose lives are torn apart by Hurricane Katrina, and then pieced back together again in ways they couldn't have imagined.

Synopsis:

In City of Refuge, a heart-wrenching novel from Tom Piazza, the author of the award-winning Why New Orleans Matters, two New Orleans families—one black and one white—confront Hurricane Katrina, a storm that will change the course of their lives. Reaching across America—from the neighborhoods of New Orleans to Texas, Chicago, and elsewhere—City of Refuge explores this turning point in American culture, one whose reverberations are only beginning to be understood.

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About the Author

Tom Piazza is the author of the post-Katrina classic Why New Orleans Matters, the Faulkner Society Award-winning novel My Cold War, and the widely acclaimed short-story collection Blues and Trouble, which won the James Michener Award for Fiction. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he is also well known as a writer on American music; in 2004 he won a Grammy Award for his album notes for Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues: A Musical Journey, and he is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. Tom Piazza lives in New Orleans.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Liza, March 3, 2014 (view all comments by Liza)
The story of two families' experiences before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. The story is told from two points of view: that of an African American family living in the ninth ward, and of a young white family who evacuates before the storm and witnesses the devastation from afar. Heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful. Written by an author who obviously loves New Orleans and it's people, music, food & community. Highly recommended.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
wolfwillow, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by wolfwillow)
This is a story that is achingly sad but still triumphant. Piazza gives us the story of Katrina from the perspective of a black family in the Ninth Ward and that of a young upwardly mobile white family. The storm narrows their choices as they experience the devastation of lives and families, all of whom love New Orleans for its iconic culture of music, food, diversity, and community. The pace of Piazza's writing follows the relentless pace of Katrina as she overpowers the outdated protections for the city and shows the world the vulnerability of America's poor. This book is a powerful political statement, as well as a testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Deborah Fochler, February 8, 2009 (view all comments by Deborah Fochler)
I couldnt put this book down. Maybe it is because New Orleans was/is my home. I havent lived there in over 20 years - but it is home. My family is there - my heart remains there. Not something easy to explain unless you are from the city. This book is terrifying in that it could happen again - and anywhere not just New Orleans. The characters tug at your heart strings - you feel their pain. You want them to be okay. This books draws you in - makes you a part of the disaster - transports you to New Orleans and the other places. Not a book you can read in a hurry.
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(5 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061238611
Author:
Piazza, Tom
Publisher:
HarperTorch
Author:
by Tom Piazza
Author:
by Tom Piazza
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Social aspects
Subject:
New Orleans (La.)
Subject:
Disaster victims.
Subject:
Li.” <i>-- <i>Washington Post</i></i>
Subject:
Lii><li>The Good Fork </li><li>Dressler</li><li>The Farm on Adderley </li><li>Flatbush Farm</li><li>Palo Santo </li><li>Lunetta </li><li>Beer Table </li><li>James</li><li>The General Greene</li><li>Five Leaves </li><li>Char No. 4</li><li>No. 7 </li><li>Bu
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
September 2008
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9.28x6.48x1.33 in. 1.50 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Morning News Tournament » Tournament of Books 2009
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

City of Refuge: A Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Harper - English 9780061238611 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Piazza tells a towering tale of self, family, and place, a story as old and heartbreaking as humankind itself."
"Review" by , "This emotional novel reads like a memoir, teeming with fear, anger, pathos, hope, determination, and love. It is absolutely essential reading for every American who watched and prayed through those terrible days. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Craig's and SJ's approaches to evacuation couldn't differ more, and while their competing narratives occasionally illustrate the city's race and class divide a little too schematically, the point that thousands were left to rot is brought home with kinetic intensity."
"Review" by , "The struggles of the two families depicted are not always well balanced, but Piazza's writing is so fresh and vital readers will feel, all over again, the outrage at the abandonment of this beloved city."
"Review" by , "Although Piazza's intentions are clearly sincere and good, to slather a novel in sentiment only replaces one set of abstractions with another."
"Review" by , "To read City of Refuge is to realize that this is what fiction is for: to take us to places the cameras can't go. The novel's characters — and what happens to them — are unforgettable, and so is the portrait of New Orleans, the city Tom Piazza clearly loves with all his large, generous heart."
"Review" by , "City of Refuge is an old-fashioned, realistic novel of New Orleans, with all the sensuousness, all the flash-point tumult, the easy-yet-hard-won virtue of the city, as well all the forthrightness, the deftness and affirming intensity of the form. People ask me when will Katrina begin to inform our art, when will imagination become essential to tell what the raw facts can't. Well, here's an answer: now. City of Refuge speaks eloquently into that silence."
"Review" by , "City of Refuge is a tremendously moving book. While reading it you will have to fight the urge to skip ahead to see what happened, and to whom. This is true even though we all know on a general level 'what happened' during Hurricane Katrina; Piazza takes what we know to a deeper, more human level. There are books that give back to art and there are books that give back to life — this book is among the latter."
"Review" by , "Tom Piazza's City of Refuge is a great read — sweeping and intimate, elegiac and angry, serving as lyrical witness to the destruction and recovery of a great city."
"Review" by , "Whatever Tom Piazza writes is touched with magic. As a former longtime New Orleans resident, I was astounded at how brilliantly Piazza captured (in vivid detail) the nuances of his City of Refuge. Although this is ostensibly a Katrina novel, Piazza transcends genre or pigeonholing in what is one of the most deeply humanistic portraits of people coping with cataclysm since The Grapes of Wrath."
"Synopsis" by , From the award-winning novelist and author of Why New Orleans Matters comes a breathtaking novel of two families, one white and one black, whose lives are torn apart by Hurricane Katrina, and then pieced back together again in ways they couldn't have imagined.
"Synopsis" by ,

In City of Refuge, a heart-wrenching novel from Tom Piazza, the author of the award-winning Why New Orleans Matters, two New Orleans families&#8212;one black and one white&#8212;confront Hurricane Katrina, a storm that will change the course of their lives. Reaching across America&#8212;from the neighborhoods of New Orleans to Texas, Chicago, and elsewhere&#8212;City of Refuge explores this turning point in American culture, one whose reverberations are only beginning to be understood.

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