Why New Orleans Matters
Why New Orleans Matters is a gift from one of our most talented writers to the beloved and important city he calls home -- and to a nation to whom that city's survival has been entrusted.
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Every place has its history. But what is it about New
Orleans that makes it more than just the sum of the events
that have happened there? What is it about the spirit of
the people who live there that could produce a music, a
cuisine, an architecture, a total environment, the mere
mention of which can bring a smile to the face of someone
who has never even set foot there?
What is the meaning of a place like that, and what is lost
if it is lost?
The winds of Hurricane Katrina, and the national disaster
that followed, brought with them a moment of shared
cultural awareness: Thousands were killed and many more
displaced; promises were made, forgotten, and renewed; the
city of New Orleans was engulfed by floodwaters of biblical
proportions -- all in a wrenching drama that captured
Yet the passing of that moment has left too many questions.
What will become of New Orleans in the months and years to
come? What of its people, who fled the city on a rising
tide of panic, trading all they knew and loved for a dim
hope of shelter and rest? And, ultimately, what do those
people and their city mean to America and the world?
In Why New Orleans Matters, award-winning author and New
Orleans resident Tom Piazza illuminates the storied culture
and uncertain future of this great and most neglected of
American cities. With wisdom and affection, he explores the
hidden contours of familiar traditions like Mardi Gras and
Jazz Fest, and evokes the sensory rapture of the city that
gave us jazz music and Creole cooking. He writes, too, of
the city's deep undercurrents of corruption, racism, and
injustice, and of how its people endure and transcend those
conditions. And, perhaps most important, he asks us all to
consider the spirit of this place and all the things it has
shared with the world -- grace and beauty, resilience and
soul. "That spirit is in terrible jeopardy right now," he
writes. "If it dies, something precious and profound will
go out of the world forever."
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