House on First Street: My New Orleans Story

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"Julia Reed went to New Orleans in 1991 to cover the reelection of former (and currently incarcerated) governor Edwin Edwards. Seduced by the city's sauntering pace, its rich flavors and exotic atmosphere, she was never entirely able to leave again. After almost fifteen years of living like a vagabond on her reporter's schedule, she got married and bought a house in the historic Garden District. Four weeks after she moved in, Hurricane Katrina struck." With her house as the center of her own personal storm as well as the ever-evolving stage set
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House on First Street: My New Orleans Story

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Overview

"Julia Reed went to New Orleans in 1991 to cover the reelection of former (and currently incarcerated) governor Edwin Edwards. Seduced by the city's sauntering pace, its rich flavors and exotic atmosphere, she was never entirely able to leave again. After almost fifteen years of living like a vagabond on her reporter's schedule, she got married and bought a house in the historic Garden District. Four weeks after she moved in, Hurricane Katrina struck." With her house as the center of her own personal storm as well as the ever-evolving stage set for her new life as an upstanding citizen, Reed traces the fates of all who enter to wine, dine (at her table for twenty-four), tear down walls, install fixtures, throw fits and generally leave their mark on the house on First Street. There's Antoine, Reed's beloved homeless handyman with an unfortunate habit of landing in jail; JoAnn Clevenger, the Auntie Mame-like restaurateur who got her start mixing drinks for Dizzy Gillespie and selling flowers from a cart; Eddie, the supremely laid-back contractor with Hollywood ambitions; and, with the arrival of Katrina. the boys from the Oklahoma National Guard, fleets of doorkicking animal rescuers and the self-appointed (and occasionally naked) neighborhood watchman. Finally, there's the literally clueless detective who investigates the robbery in which the first draft of this book was stolen. Through it all, Reed discovers there really is no place like home.
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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times
“Reed is a breezy writer who nicely captures the despair and elation of seeing the city slowly come back to life.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Reed shares this sliver of her life with a light, conversational tone, and though somewhat tangential, she conveys the richness of pace and flavor of the Big Easy as life gets back to ‘normal’ without pretense.”
Madison County Herald
“Reed will enthrall you with the Big Easy spirit of rebuilding, determination, and great eats along the way.”
Wall Street Journal
“What emerges from a heartrending, soul-stirring, rib-tickling and palate-prickling banquet of details is why Ms. Reed cannot leave New Orleans: love. It’s an undeceived devotion to a place and particularity that is admirable, and almost astonishing, in our increasingly deracinated culture.”
Washington Post
“ … Reed recounts with humor those and other home-improvement nightmares in a story that is part ‘Money Pitt’ and part love letter to her adopted home town.”
Adriana Trigiani
“Julia Reed knows how to live. She also knows how best to write about it in hilarious, sensual and mouthwatering detail....This book is so poignant and delicious, you may want to eat it instead of read it.”
Cokie Roberts
“In The House on First Street, Julia Reed, one of the cleverest crafters of prose writing today, tackles the country’s most fascinating and frustrating city....With her usual keen eye for the quirky and outrageous, Reed finds much to amuse the reader in this delightful volume.”
Walter Issacson
“Wow! This is the most brilliant and delightful memoir to come out of post-Katrina New Orleans. With great literary panache and a throaty humor, Julia Reed captures the magical allure of the city, its food and its people...destined to be a classic.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061136641
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/24/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Reed grew up in Greenville, Mississippi. She is a contributing editor at Newsweek and is the author of the essay collection Queen of the Turtle Derby. She lives in New Orleans.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Post Apocalyptic New Orleans- Telling the Truth in Love to Power

    Well, one reviewer was of the opinion that they were deeply dissapointed that, for them, Julia missed the point of her story when she veered from describing her lovely Garden District home remodel into the horrors of Katrina and its aftermath. I disagree. So sorry, you should avoid reading spot-on reportage and instead watch the home improvement networks and buy shelter magazines if you don't want the real world to intrude on your life and prefer a santized view of 'fancy' homes and the lives therein. In taking us from the comfort of observing yet one more upscale redo of a home and the ensuing 'perfect' life of the future occupants into the change of course Katrina forced upon every resident of New Orleans, Julia Reed exposes many of the shocking still kept secrets behind of the veil that has been dropped by the current administration over our collective memories about the horrific disaster and the even more appalling mismanagment of relief as perpetuated at every level of government in this country. The way people have found to survive, thrive, revive, and celebrate post-Apocalyptic New Orleans is touching, memorable, and a call to action. Julia's book is call to not forget Katrina, to not forget the underserved people in our land. Julia show us that they can be the poorest folks who are lost and also lost everything or the poor national guard who are doing their duty, living on the edge seeing horrific things daily, eating horrible rations, until Julia brings some real food and the touch of our common humanity to them, in their service to protect and help restore this iconic part of our country. Y'all read this inspiring book and then go forward to help lest we forget. It won't hurt if you commune to eat/cook/serve some good New Orleans food in the process! This is going to everyone on my gift list along with an invitation join me in action in New Orleans and in the myriad pockets of despair in this country. It is so nice and easy to take out your checkbook and to help folks far away, so very much harder to see and deal every day with what is right in front of you. So, mirror the grace and good humor of Juila Reed in her courageous coverage and restorative love: it won't hurt and it may be just what we need to save our wonderful country.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    If you love New Orleans and Louisiana - you will love the depth

    If you love New Orleans and Louisiana - you will love the depth and richness of this book. I have purchased numerous copies as gifts to friends and each has loved it. It's one thing not to like a book and to say so honestly but the trashing that another reviewer posted is unwarranted. I found her story charming and her writing worthy of Vogue. The details that seem to irritate the other reviewer as "trivia", I found colorful enhancements of her basic story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    The House on First Street

    Julia Read made my childhood and love of that era come alive in The House on First Street. She captured the warmth and charm of the South and Southern women. I gave it to all my friends and relatives for birthday or Christmas gifts.

    If you like old houses, decorating, history, and good food you will love The House on First Street.

    I miss Julia on the cable news programs of which she once frequently appeared. Her common sense and quick wit are needed today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2008

    A good read!

    This book, while not what I expected,was a really good read. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. While it tackled a serious subject (Hurricane Katrina) it didn't weigh the reader down with grim details but focused on the rebuilding and lack of support in the community by leaders.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2008

    Fabulous- Read this book

    I was excited to read this book after visiting New Orleans a few months ago and remembering the good food and a clean city. You were very descriptive in telling your story. I enjoyed it very much and give Henry a hug for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2008

    LET THEM EAT CAKE....

    This book would have been a charming memoir of restoring one of the beautiful old homes in the Garden District of New Orleans and having some wonderful dinners that the city is famous for, but it turns hideous when it is set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina and the author feeling noble for buying some ribs for the National Guard of Oklahoma while then going on to eat and drink well every night while mentioning in passing the dead bodies in the streets. In one part she wryly described how silly she thought the people who went in to save stranded house pets were.(I was one of the people of South Florida who turned out in droves to take those little creatures into our homes) What about the Lower Ninth? Or the Doctors who weren't making pronouncements by phone, but living in the hospitals trying to keep people alive? What about the Super Dome? The whole thing is treated as a minor discomfort for Ms.Reed and her well to do friends. In one part of the book she says that her editor tells her she has the 'Marie Antoinette Syndrome...let the eat cake....'precisely what I was thinking by the time I hit that page.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2010

    buy it only if you are a personal friend of Julia Reed

    Ms. Reed writes in run-on sentences about her socializing, dining and drinking experiences. There is not a redeeming quality in this book, other than a mere mention of her saintly mother and her acts of charity. How can Ms. Reed experience the tragedy of hurricane Katrina without a life-changing transformation of her materialistic self-loving existance? She name drops and rattles on about trivia while glazing over any potential for an interesting story. Reed seems to think the meaning of life can be found in numerous cocktails. Save your money and your time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2008

    A reviewer

    One has to wonder if the world really needs a Katrina memoir by someone who didn't have to swim for their life, who didn't get stuck at the Superdome or Convention Center, who didn't lose their home, or who didn't lose a loved one. One would have to grudgingly say, yes, Julia Reed provides a perspective that had yet to be well documented - that of the self-employed Uptown homeowner who came out remarkably well after the storm and the subsequent failure of the federal levees. Reed's book is - generally - a pleasant read, so to speak, but there are moments where readers will want to hunt her down and whack her over the head with her book. Her breezy writing style feels so completely wrong when she writes about encountering dead bodies during a ride- along with the National Guard. She also can't seem to help but sound arrogant and flippant in many parts of the book, particularly in the passages that deal with a few overzealous animal rescuers, or with African-Americans, whose antics she seems to find simply precious. The author name-drops with irritating regularity, and pretty much every interesting character in New Orleans is referred to as 'My friend,' something that becomes annoying very quickly. She also has a slippery grasp of some of her facts, including one that appeared on page two (New Orleans was not exactly devastated by the 1927 flood), and makes one take everything that follows with a grain of salt. Still, despite its many infuriating flaws, the book is a quick, easy read, and it has its moments of grace and humor. Reed is one of her generation's most skilled magazine writers, and this attempt at memoir writing is a good effort, albeit one that could have used a better editor. Read it, but be forewarned, especially if you're from New Orleans....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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