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

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Overview

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans became ground zero for the reinvention of the American city, with urban planners, movie stars, anarchists, and politicians all advancing their competing visions of recovery. In this wash of reform, residents and volunteers from across the country struggled to build the foundations of a new New Orleans.

For over five years, author Daniel Wolff has documented an amazing cross section of the city in upheaval: a born-again ...

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

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Overview

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans became ground zero for the reinvention of the American city, with urban planners, movie stars, anarchists, and politicians all advancing their competing visions of recovery. In this wash of reform, residents and volunteers from across the country struggled to build the foundations of a new New Orleans.

For over five years, author Daniel Wolff has documented an amazing cross section of the city in upheaval: a born-again preacher with a ministry of ex-addicts, a former Black Panther organizing for a new cause, a single mother, "broke as a joke" in a FEMA trailer. The Fight for Home chronicles their battle to survive not just the floods, but the corruption that continues and the base-level emergency of poverty and neglect.

From ruin to limbo to triumphant return, Wolff offers an intimate look at the lives of everyday American heroes. A s these lives play out against the ruined local landscape and an emerging national recession, The Fight for Home becomes a story of resilience and hope.

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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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608197514
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 8/13/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 997,104
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Wolff is the author of How Lincoln Learned to Read, a Chicago Tribune Editor's Choice pick; 4th of July, Asbury Park, a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice pick; You Send Me: The Life and Times of Sam Cooke, a national bestseller; and two volumes of poetry, among other books. His writing has appeared in publications ranging from Vogue to Wooden Boat to Education Weekly. He is the co-producer, with Jonathan Demme, of several documentary film projects on New Orleans.

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Table of Contents

Introductions

Like a Tree Planted by the Rivers (January 2006) 3

Solidarity Not Charity (February 2006) 20

A Walk Around the Block (June 2006) 41

A Lot of Limbo

They've Not Done What They Needed (June 2006) 59

Got to Do What You Got to Do (August 2006) 76

We Sitting Here Waiting (August 2006) 92

The New Normal

Time Is Not the Same (August-October 2006) 119

I Want to Keep Fighting Till … (October 2006) 137

Nothing (Nothing) Has Been Decided (Has Been Decided) (October 2006-January 2007) 156

On the Rise

Still So Much Work (January 2007) 177

If You're Gonna Leave Anybody Behind (December 2007) 198

The Lucky Ones Still Standing (December 2007) 215

Conclusion

We Fall Down, But We Get Up (February-October 2008) 239

The Future Is What We Got in Front of Us (August 2009) 261

Epilogue (August 2009-October 2011) 285

Acknowledgments 295

Notes 297

Selected Bibliography 329

Index 333

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