We Shall Not Be Moved: Rebuilding Home in the Wake of Katrina

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We Shall Not Be Moved: Rebuilding Home in the Wake of Katrina

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Tales of community activists who salvaged their neighborhoods from natural disaster and governmental neglect in New Orleans. After participating in a Harvard fellowship to volunteer with and research the stories of Hurricane Katrina victims, Wooten (co-author: No One Had a Tongue to Speak: The Untold Story of One of History's Deadliest Floods, 2011) moved to New Orleans to more fully immerse himself in the community's rebuilding efforts. Focusing on five distinct neighborhoods, he allows residents and organizers to convey their dismay at government failure, their pride in their communities, and their resilience in tackling unwieldy projects, from gutting damaged homes to applying for charter school status. Many of these neighborhoods were marked for "redevelopment" by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, an ill-conceived mayoral project that essentially recommended that neighborhoods like the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward be bulldozed and turned into parks. Facing these kinds of odds, the scrappy New Orleanians who refused to kowtow to city officials and outside consultants command the utmost respect. They also provide excellent examples of how communities facing similar threats (blight, poverty, environmental problems and crime) can work together to improve living conditions, whether or not natural disasters loom on the horizon. Readers won't fault Wooten for his sincerity in gathering these stories, and many of his subjects possess strong voices--e.g., octogenarian Phil Harris, who pragmatically speaks of saving his wife and son from the floodwaters, and Father Vien The Nguyen, who narrates the history of New Orleans' significant Vietnamese population. However, potentially compelling tales often get lost in endless re-creations of committee meetings, charter school board applications and fundraising rallies. The author's tone is a problem as well. Wooten vacillates between addressing a general audience interested in the social ramifications of Katrina and presenting an overview of urban planning better suited to a civics textbook. A well-intentioned but prosaic book.
From the Publisher
“Few disasters are ever truly ‘natural,’ and, as Tom Wooten shows, reconstruction after catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina is shaped heavily by individuals, their communities, and the structural barriers they face. Portraying a diverse range of community leaders, Wooten spins a compelling tale based on deep knowledge of local worlds, linked to an understanding of the large-scale social forces that affect these worlds in ways too often invisible to journalists and other chroniclers of events like Katrina. The stories in We Shall Not Be Moved show the essential role of local knowledge in long-term recovery and reconstruction.”—Paul Farmer, author of Haiti After the Earthquake

“That New Orleans was able to rebuild after the levees broke—without sacrificing the city’s essential and unique character—is one of American history’s most inspiring stories. Future historians studying the resurrection of New Orleans will find We Shall Not Be Moved an invaluable resource.”—Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives
“A moving portrait of a city’s struggle to rebuild. It is not an account of Katrina per se. . . . Rather, it is a story of the arduous endeavor residents have undertaken in New Orleans. . . . Every bit as gripping and important as tales from the storm itself.” Walter Issacson, from the Foreword 

“In this moving book, Tom Wooten narrates the daily struggles of residents of five neighborhoods in New Orleans to overcome the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. We Shall Not Be Moved brilliantly weaves together the stories of community residents, including accounts of their unprecedented organizing and rebuilding efforts. Wooten’s revealing nonfiction narrative is a must-read.”—William Julius Wilson, author of More Than Just Race
“That New Orleans was able to rebuild after the levees broke—without sacrificing the city’s essential and unique character—is one of American history’s most inspiring stories. Future historians studying the resurrection of New Orleans will find We Shall Not Be Moved an invaluable resource.”—Dan Baum, author of Nine Lives
“Wooten’s gripping narrative account of post-Katrina recovery speaks to the importance of local organizing as a source of community resilience in disaster’s wake. The stories he tells have implications that reach far beyond the particular circumstance of New Orleans, helping us understand the overall dynamics of community recovery.”—Marshall Ganz, author of Why David Sometimes Wins
We Shall Not Be Moved weaves together a sociologically rich account of human resilience in the face of collective catastrophe with a compelling analysis.” —Erik Olin Wright, president, American Sociological Association

“We Shall Not Be Moved
is recommended for anyone with an interest in New Orleans, in reconstruction after disaster, or in community organizing."—YES! Magazine

“Wooten’s book is a hopeful look at the disaster and recovery of Katrina-struck New Orleans, focusing on community leaders, neighborhood by neighborhood”—ForeWord Reviews

“As Tom Wooten chronicles in his moving portrait, ‘We Shall Not Be Moved: Rebuilding Home in the Wake of Katrina,’ much of the repair work was done through community and nonprofit groups…. [His stories] recall the American frontier days in their demonstrations of human resourcefulness, cooperation and independence…. Mr. Wooten meticulously tracks the work of civic groups in five parts of New Orleans as they labored to prove that their neighborhoods were worth saving, underscoring the importance of fostering such groups long before a catastrophe hits.”
Wall Street Journal

We Shall Not Be Moved is a careful and probing document of the near-death and continuing restoration of New Orleans.  In a city where the civic firmament is often shifting and unreliable, the survival of New Orleans has largely depended on ordinary people doing extraordinary things in an unrelenting fashion.  Simply put, the people who live here, who grew up here and know what life here can and should be, refuse to give up on that.  When all else failed, they did not.  They came home and went to work.  Tom Wooten, in writing some of those stories, has been equally faithful.”
—David Simon, creator of Treme and The Wire
“Compelling beyond belief, deserving the broadest possible readership, and mandatory reading for urban planners and community organizers, this is a tour-de-force about one American city and what it means to fight for the survival of your hometown. If you love where you live, you need to know this story of what it has taken to rebuild every flooded block of New Orleans.”—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807044636
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,408,545
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.91 (d)

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