Synopses & Reviews
Overcoming Katrina tells the stories of 27 New Orleanians as they fought to survive Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Their oral histories offer first-hand experiences: three days on a roof with Navy veteran Leonard Smith; at the convention center with waitress Eleanor Thornton; and with Willie Pitford, an elevator man, as he rescued 150 people in New Orleans East. Overcoming approaches the question of why New Orleans matters, from perspectives of the individuals who lived, loved, worked, and celebrated life and death there prior to being scattered across the country by Hurricane Katrina. This book's twenty-seven narrators range from Mack Slan, a conservative businessman who disparages the younger generation for not sharing his ability to make "good, rational decisions," to Kalamu ya Salaam, who was followed by the New Orleans Police Department for several years as a militant defender of Black Power in the late 1960s and '70s. These narratives are memorials to the corner stores, the Baptist churches, the community health clinics, and those streets where the aunties stood on the corner, and whose physical traces have now all been washed away. They conclude with visions of a safer, equitably rebuilt New Orleans. *Scroll down for more audio excerpts from Overcoming Katrina*
Awarded the 2009 Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust Leadership in Journalism Award
"I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing what really happened to residents of New Orleans on August 29, 2005, and the days that followed . . . Its more than a Katrina story; its a collection of intimate portraits of people who survived an ordeal of mammoth proportion and lived to tell."--The New Orleans Tribune
“This book truly encompasses the African American experience of Katrina in New Orleans. While academics will gain insight from the experiences shared in these narratives, this book is for everyone who wants to hear the truth about what happened in that awful week following Katrinas landfall.”—Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Undeserved
“The story of Katrina and its aftermath have been told in many literary venues and through many genres. But no book has told the story as plainly and as painfully as Overcoming Katrina. Through the words of the twenty-seven men and women, ranging in age from the very old to those in their twenties, come straightforward and genuine stories of Katrina survivors. These narratives perform one of historys most important functions: to acknowledge the reality of experience. Overcoming Katrina forces its readers to acknowledge the ugly truth of the ordeal of Katrina and to appreciate the amazing beauty of the survivors resilience, tenacity, and faith as they try to rebuild their lives and their city.”—The Huffington Post
“An excellent examination of the Hurricane Katrina saga and recommended reading for anyone interested in New Orleans culture.”—Oral History Review
"These compelling personal narratives convey the rich African American family, community, and institutional life that have created the historic foundation of New Orleans. They are stories of hard work, dignity, survival, courage, and heroic acts by ordinary people. And they are stories of an incompetent federal government, an indifferent president, and of citizens treated like an enemy in their own country. Read this book."--Nan Elizabeth Woodruff, Author of American Congo: The African American Freedom Struggle in the Delta "This magnificent collection of stories takes the reader into the churches, dance halls, workplaces and parlors of black New Orleans--and then follows the narrators into myriad places of exile. Read it and celebrate the life that once was. Read it and weep for what has been lost. Most of all, read it if you care about the betrayals and promises of democracy in the United States."--Barbara Ellen Smith, Director of Women's Studies, Virginia Tech "The oral histories of these twenty-seven African Americans bring us as close as we will come to the full human dimensions and significance of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. They remember that epochal event not as victims but as members of a community that resisted slavery and racism and built a rich and powerful culture. Told through the unique prism of New Orleans and Katrina, their memories will make you weep and wonder at the resilience of the human spirit. The authors have produced a stunning document, one that calls on us all to work for a better world."--Michael K. Honey, Author of Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther Kings Last Campaign and Black Workers Remember, An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle "A goldmine of real stories of Katrina survivors, this is the book everyone has been waiting for since Katrina. In their own words, New Orleans people tell how they endured Katrina, what they lost, and how they are surviving now. Stories of tragedy, courage, racism, hope, abandonment, inspiration, depression, neighborhood, and struggle are all in this book. This book will take your breath away. If you are going to read only one Katrina book, make it this one. You will never think of New Orleans, Katrina or the United States the same way again."--Bill Quigley, New Orleans Human Rights Lawyer; Professor of Law, Loyola University "From years of anonymity come the vibrant, complicated voices of Katrina survivors in this invaluable oral history. Overcoming Katrina helps the many still struggling to understand one of America's greatest governmental failures to engage diverse individuals from New Orleans' post-disaster diaspora, learn of their love for their city's culture and history, mourn their unimaginable losses and celebrate their unyielding humanity."--David D. Troutt, Editor of After the Storm: Black Intellectuals Explore the Meaning of Hurricane Katrina; Professor of Law, Rutgers-Newark "Overcoming Katrina reminds us of a sad chapter in American history, but it also reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit. The authors are to be commended for bringing back the voices that are too easily forgotten as we rush to deal with other crises. I have also seen both the pathos and the compassion they write about and offer testimony to the importance of their work."--Ambassador James A. Joseph, Chairman, Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation "When one looks at the broad landscape of American history, it is often said that African Americans were conscripted to be keepers of the Dream. Their task to remind a nation of its founding principles: all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Overcoming Katrina bears witness to the epic struggles that Black Americans have waged. The backdrop is a natural disaster; the real story is about a community determined to force a nation to keep its promise to all of its people, regardless of class or socio-economic status. It is a compelling read."--Gary Puckrein, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Quality Forum; Executive Director of the Alliance of Minority Medical Associations
"There is nothing more compelling than a collection of stories, straight from the hearts of people of all walks of life, to capture the essence and true impact of a cataclysmic event like Hurricane Katrina and the immersion of New Orleans. This book is much like a portable museum installation, curated to illustrate the antecedents and the aftermath of a disaster and its impact on the souls of black folk and their community. We will be forever enriched by this splendid compilation with its rich variations on the themes of creativity and connectedness in response to adversity and exclusion, and in the wake of trauma and loss, hope and healing."--Annelle Primm, Director of Minority & National Affairs for the American Psychiatric Association; Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School
This books brings together the narrated autobiographies of black New Orleanians, united by their residence in New Orleans, Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At its heart are stories of abandonment and evacuation, heroism and terror, prejudice and generosity, and displacement and rebuilding in the wake of the hurricane and its lengthy aftermath.
About the Author
DAnn R. Penner
is an oral historian focusing on how people respond to serial displacement. Between September 2005 and August 2008, she conducted over 275 interviews of survivors displaced by Hurricane Katrina. During this time, Penner was affiliated with the Benjamin L. Hooks institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and finally with the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. Currently, she is a Scholar in Residence at the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
Keith C. Ferdinand, a descendant of several generations of southern Louisianans, was the founder of Heartbeats Life Center, a cardiovascular clinic in the Ninth Ward, focused on the intersection of medicine and human rights for over twenty years until it was destroyed by the post-Katrina flooding. He is currently Chief Science Officer for the Association of Black Cardiologists, director of cardiovascular health at St. Thomas Community Health Center in New Orleans, and clinical professor of medicine, division of cardiology at Emory University. Ferdinand received his MD from Howard Medical School.
Table of Contents
Introduction * Retirees * At the Height of their Careers * Thirty Something * Coming of Age