Thursday, March 3, 2016

The brutality of Hurricane Katrina

I took note of Drowned City on one of those "Best Books" wrap-up posts in December.  The list I read featured comics.  I was immediately drawn to this book because it's a journalistic account of what happened in New Orleans just before and following the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.

I enjoyed Joe Sacco's journalistic comic, Palestine, though I had never read anything by Don Brown.  Hurricane Katrina is so vivid in my memory, though it happened over ten years (TEN YEARS!) ago.  I remember the photos and the videos and the outcry over the lack of response from the federal government.  I remember the horror so many of us felt when we realized that America could so quickly and easily resemble a third-world, war-torn country, with refugees, insufficient resources, looting, and violence.  It's a fast descent into desperation.

Brown's book pretty clearly marks out the mismanagement and almost willful blindness of government authorities to deal with the horrible situation that arose after Hurricane Katrina.  Communication was difficult, there was hardly any power, it was nearly impossible to get around, and it was obviously a very dangerous place to be.

But he also shows that there were pockets of courage and kindness, people going out of their way to help friends, neighbors, strangers.  Even though the government couldn't get its act together, individual acts of kindness made a huge difference.

The illustrations in this book are excellent.  They make great use of color, covering vibrant, bright New Orleans in a grey-green gloom of never-ending rain and wind and water.  When a bright spot of red comes across your vision in a frame, it really jolts you in surprise, much like seeing a rescuer after a week of waiting must have jolted some of Katrina's survivors.

This is not a book with a story, per se.  It's very much a factual account of what happened, what went wrong, what went right.  There isn't flowery prose, there's very little dialogue, and there's no main character.  It's more like a documentary.  I found it very compelling reading, nevertheless.  I just want to make sure you have the right expectations going in.

I also hope that Jenny reads this book because I think I read it at a very opportune time, just after our discussion on New Orleans, Beyonce, cultural appropriation, and the like :-)


  1. I have been curious about this one, and am so glad you read and reviewed it. And thank you for giving me an idea of what to expect--and not expect. It sounds like it is definitely worth reading.

  2. Sounds good. I will have to add it to the wish list. :)

  3. This looks really good. I like that it's a documentary approach too because that's the approach I most want to read on this subject.

  4. I can't, sorrryyyyyyy! I can't read Hurricane Katrina stuff. Or anything with floods. I've tried it a few times and it's too upsetting. To be clear, nothing terrible happened to me during Katrina; it's just, I was around when all that shit was going down, and it was awful, and reliving it in books gives me nightmares. I'm sorry! The book sounds really interesting!


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