The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back

The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back

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by Daniel Wolff

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The powerful story of the rebuilding of New Orleans -- of competing visions for one city and for our country.

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The powerful story of the rebuilding of New Orleans -- of competing visions for one city and for our country.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The destruction left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is only the starting point for the social drama that unfolds in Wolff’s (How Lincoln Learned to Read) grassroots-oriented investigation of the rebuilding of New Orleans’ most underprivileged and underrepresented neighborhoods. The controversy surrounding the initial federal government response during the disaster is supported by indications of continuing business-government corruption and economic exploitation during the reconstruction phase, though Wolff also details the remarkable contribution made by neighbors, pastors, former Black Panthers, and other volunteers and citizen organizations. Between these two sides is a battle line dividing competing maps and futures for the city and its inhabitants. Wolff’s impressive research utilizes dozens of interviews with community members and organizers collected over five years beginning in early 2006—including with members of Common Ground, a direct-democracy organization made up mostly of young volunteers from out of state, some of whom are veteran activists from the antiglobalization movement. Wolff’s reportage concentrates on the empowering, if also difficult, coordination across regional, racial, and class lines to provide basic aid and services to the largely African-American communities of the city’s devastated Ninth Ward, as well as a serious bid among such individuals and organizations to realize a future in which diversity and solidarity are the strength of a city and a society. Agent: David Black, David Black Agency. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Hurricane Katrina's destruction, its psychological toll on residents, its political choreography and consequences--all revealed by a handful of people over a 10-year period. Writer and documentary film producer Wolff (How Lincoln Learned to Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations that Made Them, 2009, etc.) begins five months after the disaster with a group of ex-addicts, organized and animated by Pastor Mel, who quickly realized that resurrection would come not from government agencies or insurance companies (who come off here as criminally dilatory), but from local residents and volunteers. By the end, Mel is much better off, his ministry greatly enlarged. Wolff introduces us to some other locals as well, revisiting them continually. Among them are some men at the Common Ground Collective, a group devoted to raising money and saving property in the devastated Lower Ninth. The author intercuts his encounters with his principals with biographical information. We also meet Carolyn and Kyrah, a struggling mother and daughter. Kyrah was a star student as a child, but we watch her fortunes fracture as she tries one college after another. Actor Brad Pitt is a presence in the narrative as well; he donated funds and spearheaded the construction of earth-friendly houses. The locals greatly appreciate him and do not see him as a self-absorbed white do-gooder. Wolff employs the present tense throughout, an effective device that helps him communicate the smells of decay, the depth of desperation and the powerful frustrations of people who feel abandoned in their own land. The author generally resists editorializing and allows the stories of these blasted lives and sturdy souls to transmit his powerful message.

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Bloomsbury USA
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