Literature of Katrina

May 25, 2020

I've been reading Sarah M. Broom's memoir The Yellow House (which I will write more about later). I was reading the section about hurricane Katrina and it hit me... aside from this and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, I have not read much literature about Katrina and its aftermath. And it got me wondering how much literature there actually was, if there was a ton and I just missed it or if there wasn't that much at all.

It turns out that I missed it.

The list below is by no means comprehensive. Instead it includes the books I am interested in reading about Katrina and about New Orleans itself, a place I've never been but would like to visit some day. What I'm hoping is that by reading at least some of these books I can learn more about what really happened to the people living in New Orleans during and after the hurricane, an event that I remember from when I was a young adult (I was 26 when it happened), but that even then felt both horrifying and distant.

Among other individual book listings, a couple of posts helped me in putting together this list and I want to link to them here because they provide a lot more context for the books below: Katrina, 10 Years After: A Reading List by Ellen Urbani on Lithub and The Best Books on Hurricane Katrina recommended by Gary Rivlin on Five Books.

Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum I like the framing on this one, putting the lives of these nine people and the city itself between the bookends of Hurricane Betsy in the 1960s and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink I honestly don't know if I'll be able to read this one. It's about the hospital where the caregivers were accused of euthanizing several patients. It sounds like an incredible book, challenging and thoughtful. I'm sure it's a tough one to read, though.

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley This one gets cited all over the place and is probably the first one I'll read.

1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose A collection of columns by Rose, a journalist for the Times-Picayune. I like the idea of reading something that was written as the events were unfolding.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne Jed Horne was an editor at the Times-Picayune and it seems a bit heavy. But in his Five Books interview Gary Rivlin said "It’s written with this brawling spirit, you feel the frustration on every page." and honestly that's enough to recommend it to me.

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld I love that this is graphic nonfiction telling people's stories.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward I have no excuse for not having read this one yet. It's been on my shelf for years.

City of Refuge and Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza City of Refuge, a novel, is most directly about Hurricane Katrina and I would love to read it. But I wanted to add Piazza's book Why New Orleans Matters, too. Apparently it first came out shortly after the storm and it sounds kind of like an unvarnished love letter to the city, its inhabitants, and its history.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown The second graphic novel on the list, this one is apparently geared more towards children. The illustrations look amazing.

New Orleans: The Making of an Urban Landscape by Peirce F. Lewis This is one of those books that I'm not sure that I will get to, but I feel like I should. As someone with a master's degree in Community Planning, this feels like an important book that will help me better understand the city itself and its history.