The first book in the Folklife in the South series and by far the broadest look at traditional Cajun culture ever assembled. It not only describes the traditions as they are but also explains how they came to be.
This readable overview by Ancelet, assistant professor of French at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Edwards, associate professor of anthropology at Louisiana State University, pk and filmmaker Pitre will entertain nonspecialists who wish to study aspects of the history and culture of Louisiana Cajuns, descendants of the French-speaking Acadians driven out of Nova Scotia in the 18th century. Subjects range from traditional family structure, courtship rituals and folk medicine to the ``eccentric creativity'' of chef Paul Prudhomme (who has promoted Cajun cuisine throughout the U.S.), children's games and Cajun singers who have made the hit parade. A discussion of religion explores the Cajun blend of Catholicism and folk religion, highlighting the region's most famous festival: Mardi Gras, a lively mix of medieval and modern that even today offers a ``certain aura of outlawry.'' The scope and detail of coverage vary by topic. For example, funeral customs occupy less than a page, although architectural styles and 19th-century public dances are discussed at greater length. Particularly engaging are transcriptions of songs, traditional tales and jokes, most given in French and English versions. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
This first volume of the ``Folklife in the South'' series provides an insightful study of the Cajun people of south Louisiana. It successfully ``attempts to portray their characters by presenting the traditional culture of Cajun country and examining the effects of tradition on modern ways.'' Although several books are available on various aspects of Cajun culture, this title offers a comprehensive survey of the history, social institutions, material culture, and recreational activities of this unique ethnic group. It is further distinguished by the sound scholarship of folklorists and historians whose writings have been gracefully assembled under one cover. References to source materials are contained within the text, avoiding the use of footnotes and broadening the book's appeal. Researchers will appreciate a discussion of the sources in the bibliographical essay. Highly recommended.-- Eloise R. Hitchcock, Tennessee Tech Univ. Lib., Cookeville