Posted by: montclairlibrary | August 28, 2015

When the Levees Broke: Hurricane Katrina in Literature and Non-Fiction

FEMA photo of New Orleans flooding by Bob McMillan

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, it quickly became one of the most devastating natural disasters ever. Given the huge physical and emotional toll of the storm and its aftermath, it’s no surprise that over the past decade fiction and non-fiction authors have used Katrina as both a backdrop and a central figure in their works.

If you’re looking to better understand Katrina and its lasting impact on New Orleans, check out one of these books from the Montclair collection:

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (976.33506 EGGERS) – In the days after the storm, longtime New Orleans resident Abdulrahman Zeitoun traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared– arrested and accused of being an agent of al Qaeda.

First the Dead by Tim Downs (MYS DOWNS) – New Orleans and the post-Katrina years seem to inspire lots of mystery novels. This one centers on a forensic entomologist working with FEMA’s disaster response team. As the deadly hurricane nears New Orleans, investigators discover several floating corpses with injuries pointing to deaths prior to Katrina. See also The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke (MYS BURKE): As this mystery begins, “Hurricane Katrina has left the commercial district and residential neighborhoods awash with looters and predators of every stripe.”

Words Upon the Waters: A Poetic Response to Hurricane Katrina by Bay Area Writers and Artists, edited by Karla Brundage (811.6 WORDS)

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (FIC WARD) – In this novel, four hardscrabble siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.

City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina by Jenni Bergal et al (976.33506 CITY) – Essays on the levees, the storm, housing and other issues.

Coming soon to OPL:
Katrina: After the Flood by Gary Rivlin – An investigative journalist revisits Hurricane Katrina’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’ efforts to rebuild itself and the storm’s lasting effects on the psychic, racial and social fabric of the city.

Hurricane Katrina: The Storm that Drowned a City (DVD 363.3492 HURRICANE) – Featuring eyewitness testimony, Nova takes an in-depth look at what made Hurricane Katrina so deadly.

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery (J 636.0832 LARSON) – Bobbi the dog and Bob Cat are best friends. When their hometown of New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina, many lost everything. Bobbi and Bob Cat only survived by staying together. This is the story of their remarkable friendship. (Picture book ages 7-10)

I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis (J FIC TARSHIS) – In this installment of the popular “I Survived” series, 11-year-old Barry’s family is forced to stay home and wait out the storm. When the levees break and Barry is swept away by the floodwaters, he must survive the storm of the century alone. (Middle grade; ages 8-12)

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana (J FIC LAMANA) – At the end of August 2005, ten-year-old Armani is looking forward to her birthday party in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where she and her extended family live, but Hurricane Katrina is on the way, bringing destruction and tragedy in its wake. (Middle grade; ages 8-14)

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (J FIC RHODES) – In New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, twelve-year-old Lanesha, who can see spirits, and her adopted grandmother have no choice but to stay and weather the storm as Hurricane Katrina bears down upon them. (Middle grade; ages 10-14)

Coming soon to OPL:
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner (coming soon to OPL) – A man known as the “Trashcan Wizard” sings and dances his way through the French Quarter in New Orleans, keeping his beloved city clean, until Hurricane Katrina’s devastation nearly causes him to lose his spirit. (Picture book ages 3-7)

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick – The weekend she turns thirteen, aspiring clothing designer Teresa “Reesie” Boone is separated from her family by Hurricane Katrina but, during the horrific storm and its aftermath, begins to find strength in herself. (Middle grade; ages 8 to 12)

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith – The world seems to bring together Henry, whose best friend died near their home in the mountains of Vermont, and Zavion, who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, so that the boys can help each other heal. (Middle grade; ages 9 to 12)

TIP: See more recommendations for kids, many of them available elsewhere in OPL, on the Scholastic website.

Photo: “New Orleans, LA, Sept. 14, 2005” by Bob McMillan for FEMA via Kelly Garbato / Flickr

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