Katrinaville Chronicles

Around the Press in 80 Books: Katrinaville Chronicles

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Acquisitions Editor Margaret Lovecraft writes about Katrinaville Chronicles.

Katrinaville Chronicles
A street in the Lower Ninth Ward is unrecognizable from its preflood appearance. © David G. Spielman

In early 2006, I moved from the position of marketing manager to acquisitions editor here at LSU Press. David Spielman’s book Katrinaville Chronicles was one of the first manuscripts I had the honor of sponsoring. There were lots of books quickly released in the twelve months following the destructive, massive August 29, 2005, hurricane and its tragic aftermath, but LSU Press characteristically took the long view in publishing on this subject, which literally hit home.

The immediacy of David’s photographs and e-mails, sent from day 3 to day 120 poststorm, has not lessened with time. They were striking when I first read his manuscript in 2006, when the book was published in 2007, and today, ten years after Katrina.

The book’s jacket copy, still, best conveys this indelible pictorial and verbal narrative:

When Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, photographer David G. Spielman decided to stay and weather the storm, assisting his Uptown neighbors, a community of Poor Clare nuns. Katrina passed, and as the flood waters filled the city, the scope of the devastation only gradually dawned on Spielman, who was cut off from outside communication. Faced with the greatest personal and professional challenge of his life, he determined to document the scene unfolding around him. He managed to secure a generator to power his laptop computer, and in the days, weeks, and months after August 29, 2005, he transmitted e-mails to hundreds of friends and clients and cautiously traversed the city taking photographs. “Katrinaville Chronicles” gathers Spielman’s images and observations, relating his unique perspective on and experience of a historic catastrophe.

Spielman never expected his e-mails to survive beyond the day he sent them. But his descriptions of what he was seeing, hearing, smelling, thinking, feeling, and fearing in post-Katrina New Orleans were forwarded again and again, even around the globe. He rants about political leaders and voices a deep concern for his city’s future, encouraging fellow citizens to see Katrina as an opportunity to improve upon the past. He tells of feeling overwhelmed, at a loss for words, unable to capture on film the individual tragedies manifested in home after destroyed home, many marked by death. His arresting black-and-white photographs record the details of the disaster on both a grand and an intimate scale. “Katrinaville Chronicles” is Spielman’s in-the-moment, very human response to and stunning visual record of—as he puts it—“a thing so huge I still can’t get my mind around it.”

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