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Odd Words: This week in literary New Orleans December 6, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Book Stores, book-signing, books, bookstores, literature, Louisiana, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, reading, spoken word, Toulouse Street, Writing.

& At 6 pm Monday New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson comes to Octavia Books to present & sign his new book, UNDER OUR SKIN. Can it ever get better? This is the question Benjamin Watson is asking. In a country aflame with the fallout from the racial divide – in which Ferguson, Charleston, and the Confederate flag dominate the national news, daily seeming to rip the wounds open ever wider – is there hope for honest and healing conversation? For finally coming to understand each other on issues that are ultimately about so much more than black and white? An NFL tight end for the New Orleans Saints and a widely read and followed commentator on social media, Watson has taken the Internet by storm with his remarkable insights about some of the most sensitive and charged topics of our day. Now, in UNDER OUR SKIN: Getting Real about Race – And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us, Watson draws from his own life, his family legacy, and his role as a husband and father to sensitively and honestly examine both sides of the race debate and appeal to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing.

& Monday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shops hosts Carol Reese, Tina Freeman, and Walter Stern’s Longue Vue House and Gardens. The stunning interiors and glorious gardens of New Orleans’ unrivaled jewel and architectural masterpiece. Longue Vue House and Gardens, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and listed as a national historic landmark, was designed and built between 1934 and 1942 by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman and architects Charles and William Platt for Edgar Bloom and Edith Rosenwald Stern, New Orleans’ foremost mid-twentieth-century philanthropists and civil-rights activists. The mansion and its surrounding eight acres of garden spaces, with varied designs ranging from the formal to the wild, draw upon Southern architectural traditions and native Louisiana flora, even as they echo the contemporaneous garden-design movement that set the stage for the creation of some of the most breathtaking garden estates in the country. Lush photography, supporting architectural drawings, and an informative text bring the main house and gardens to life and establish the estate as an enduring symbol to its creators’ contributions to building a just society.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Chef John Besh will be signing Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked Recipes at Maple Street Book Shop’s Holiday Party.In this, his fourth book, award-winning chef John Besh takes another deep dive into the charm and authenticity of the cuisine of New Orleans. “Besh Big Easy” features all new recipes, published in a new flexibound format and accessible to cooks everywhere. Much has changed since Besh wrote his bestselling “My New Orleans” in 2009. The book is dedicated to accessibility. “There’s no reason a good jambalaya needs two dozen ingredients,” John says. In this book, jambalaya has less than ten, but sacrifices nothing in the way of flavor. With 101 original, personal recipes such as Mr. Sam’s Stuffed Crabs, Duck Camp Shrimp & Grits, and Silver Queen Corn Pudding, “Besh Big Easy” is chock-full of the vivid personality that has made John Besh such a popular American culinary icon.

& Also at 6 pm Tuesday the Robert E. Smith Library hosts an Author Visit: A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook. Cynthia LeJeune Noble’s cookbook offers recipes inspired by the delightfully commonplace and always delicious fare of Ignatius and his cohorts. Through an informative narrative and almost 200 recipes, Nobles explores the intersection of food, history, and culture found in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, opening up a new avenue into New Orleans rich culinary traditions.

& At 7 pm Tuesday the Alvar Library presents an Evening with José Torres-Tama, Performance Poet & Artist. Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares is a debut collection that documents twenty-five years of José Torres-Tama’s poetry in his unique bilingual voice. Labeled a “Permanent Resident Alien” during his entry into GringoLandia at the age of seven in 1968, he explores the psychic, physical, and open wounds of an Ecuadorian immigrant balancing two languages and cultures, challenging the United States to live up to its mythic ideals as the beacon of democracy.

& Also at 7 pm Tuesday the Westbank Fiction Writers’ Group meets at the Edith Lawson Library in Westwego. Writing exercises or discussions of points of fiction and/or critique sessions of members’ submissions. Meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. Moderator: Gary Bourgeois. Held in the meeting Room.

& At 6 pm Wednesday the Norman Mayer Library hosts author Tiffany Monique talking to prospective authors about the process of self-publishing and promoting one’s own work. & Wildlife photographer C.C. Lockwood will be signing Louisiana Wild at Maple Street Book Shop, Wednesday, at 6 pm. Lockwood has lived and worked in fragile ecosystems whose preservation shapes his artistry. His work has earned him international acclaim as an environmental artist, including the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography. His newest book, “Louisiana Wild: The Lands Protected and Restored by The Nature Conservancy”, portrays the good work this organization is doing on over 280,000 acres of land in our state. The scenic images that Louisiana brings to mind—moss-draped cypress, lush marshlands, alligators gliding through bayous, herons coasting across an open sky—all spring from one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the continent. From the precious maritime forests of Grand Isle to the steep contours of Tunica Hills, Louisiana’s wild outdoors defines each region’s sense of place and value.

& Also at 6 pm Wednesday meet Anne Butler and Henry Cancienne, creators of LOUISIANA SWAMPS AND MARSHES at Octaviva Books. Louisiana’s wonderful wetlands, coastal marshes, and swamps have meant much to different visitors over the years–sustenance for fisherman and trappers, food supplies for hunters, inspiration for artists and writers, hideouts for hermits and pirates, unbroken solitude for weary souls and assorted dreamers clinging to a vanishing way of life. But these wonderful wild spots are so fragile, and every year brings the loss of more of them. We have been so careless about our environment in the past, so sure our natural resources would last forever. Now we know better. Noted photographer Henry Cancienne has a passion for preserving our unique natural environments through his spectacular images, and in this book he shares some of his favorite walking trails and drives, most free and easily accessible via raised boardwalks and well-maintained paths. Significant spawning/nesting/breeding grounds and vital habitats for wildlife, including a number of endangered species, these wetlands and wildernesses are themselves in danger of vanishing as well. Visit them while you can.

& At 8 pm Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series at B.J.’s in the Bywater hosts a special fiction night with Ann Glaviano and Alex Jennings. Jennings is an author, comic, actor and music writer living right here in New Orleans. He loves comic books, fancy beer, trashy movies, fine films, shoes, and jokes of varying quality. He spends way to much time procrastinating on social media, but it’s usually for a good cause, he swears. Glaviano is a multidisciplinary artist and a born-and-raised New Orleanian. In 2015 her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Atlas Review, descant (Frank O’Connor Award for fiction), Gravy, VIDA’s “Report from the Field,” Antigravity, and Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina (UNO Press). A novella, Dickbeer, is forthcoming from Day One in January.

& At 6 pm Thursday Maple Street Book Shops will be hosting Robert S. Brantley, author of the new book, Henry Howard, Louisiana’s Architect. One of the nineteenth century’s most prolific architects but also, until recently, one of the most historically elusive, Henry Howard (1818-1884) left an indelible mark on the landscape of his adopted home, Louisiana. Howard gave Louisiana some of its most iconic structures: the Pontalba buildings on New Orleans’s Jackson Square, the Robert Short house in the Garden District, and a string of legendary plantation houses along the Mississippi River. The photographer and architectural historian Robert S. Brantley provides a comprehensive survey of Howard’s career in this meticulously researched collection. Lavishly illustrated with photographs both new and historical, and interspersed with archival drawings and plans, Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect restores its subject to his rightful place in the pantheon of southern architects.

& Thursday at 6:30 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts a discussion of How Research Informs Both Fiction and Non-fiction with National Book Award Winner Adam Johnson, Gilbert King, Scott Hutchins and Eric Puchner. The authors books will be available for purchase and autograph. Fortune Smiles consists of six masterly stories, Johnson delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal. Devil in the Grove, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, is a gripping true story of racism, murder, rape, and the law. It brings to light one of the most dramatic court cases in American history, and offers a rare and revealing portrait of Thurgood Marshall that the world has never seen before. In A Working Theory of Love, before his brief marriage imploded, Neill Bassett took a job feeding data into what could be the world’s first sentient computer. Only his attempt to give it languagethrough the journals his father left behind after committing suicidehas unexpected consequences. Amidst this turmoil, Neill meets Rachel, a naïve young woman escaping a troubled past, and finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her and the possibilities she holds. But as everything he thought about the past becomes uncertain, every move forward feels impossible. In Model Home the Zillers—Warren, Camille, and their three children—live the good life in a gated Southern California neighborhood, but the sun-bright veneer hides a starker reality. As Warren desperately tries to conceal a failing real estate venture, his family falls prey to secrets and misunderstandings, both hilarious and painful, that open fault lines in their intimacy. Their misguided attempts to recover their former closeness, or find it elsewhere, lead them into late-night burglary, improbable romance, and strange acts of betrayal.

& At 7 pm Thursday the SciFi, Fantasy and Horror Writer’s Group meets at the East Jefferson Regional Library. he purpose of the group is to encourage local writers to create works of fiction based on science fiction, fantasy and horror themes. Participants submit manuscripts to be critiqued by others in the group. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& At noon Friday Octavia Books hosts a tasting & signing with Chef John Folse featuring his new encyclopedic cookbook, CAN YOU DID IT: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Vegetable Cookery. Readers can expect to find chapters on the swamp floor pantry, root vegetables, leafy greens, off the vine, grains, exotics and more. Recipes focus on vegetables as the primary ingredient in appetizers, soups, salads, sides, entrées, breads, desserts and even drinks. Like Folse’s three other “Big Books,” Can You Dig It begins with a look to the past by co-author Michaela York. The history of agriculture is told from ancient man and biblical perspectives; there are discussions of farming in antiquity including Egypt, Greece and Rome; gardens of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are explored; as well as the discovery of America and vegetables’ influence on population and power through the Colombian Exchange. The history section culminates in an overview of Louisiana’s deep roots in agriculture, with particular focus on the farming methods of the seven nations that make up Louisiana culture and cuisine.

& Friday at 6 pm Octavia Books brings Katrell Christie to the store to share words from her newest book, TIGER HEART: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling, and What I Learned about Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family. Her special guest will be husband Thanh Truong, news anchor from WWL Channel 4. Christie was a thirty-something artist turned roller-derby rebel who opened a tea shop in Atlanta. Barely two years later, her life would make a drastic change–and so would the lives of a group of girls half a world away. “I chose the name of my tea shop–Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party–because it sounded whimsical. India wasn’t part of the equation. Not even remotely. I didn’t do yoga. I had no deep yearning to see the Taj Mahal or tour Hindu temples. Indian food? I could take it or leave it.” Yet on a whim, Katrell did go and fell in love with a country that was gorgeous and heartbreaking all at once, where tragedy, humor, resilience and kindness were inextricably bound. From dodging feral monkeys, to slamming shots of whiskey to win acceptance at a local Rotary Club, to forging lasting friendships with the people who stepped up to help her cause, Tiger Heart offers a shot-gun seat on an inspiring trek across the globe, capturing the essence of India: its quirks, its traditions, and its people. Fate may have led Katrell to a tiny spot on a map, but it was a kinship that brought her back home a half a world away. Tiger Heart is a life-affirming look at the ties that bind and the power of each of us to make a difference.

& Saturday at 11:30 am Marti Dumas will be reading from and signing her latest Jaden Toussaint book at Maple Street Book Shop.Jaden Toussaint is a five year-old who knows it all. I mean, really knows it all. Animal Scientist. Great Debater. Master of the art of ninja dancing. There’s nothing Jaden Toussaint can’t do. The only problem is that grown-ups keep trying to convince him that, even though he’s really smart, he doesn’t know EVERYTHING. The thing is…he kind of does. This time our hero must use all his super-powered brain power to save his school and some possible alien invaders (which may or may not be caterpillars) from destroying each other.

& At 4 pm Saturday Kalamu ya Salaam and Kelly Harris-DeBerry read at Community Book Center to launch Kelly’s poetry CD, Revival.

& Sunday at 3 pm the Maple Leaf Poetry Reading Series hosts GROUP READING BY UNO MFA Creative writing students studying with John Gery and Carolyn Hembree.


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