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Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication) Hardcover – September 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Trethewey opens her powerful meditation with "You can get there from here, though there's no going home," a line taken from her Pulitzer Prize-winning 2007 book, Native Guard. When she wrote that line she was "thinking figuratively" about the passage of time; now "the poem had become quite literal." Trethewey combines poetry, prose, and correspondence to paint a poignant picture of the effects of Katrina on her family and on the black community in which she grew up. She writes of her 92-year-old grandmother who didn't eat for weeks after she was evacuated from her home. Disoriented, she moved to Atlanta to live with the author before entering the nursing home where she would soon die. Trethewey also relates the sad story of her brother, Joe. When some homes he owned were destroyed in the flood, he took what odd jobs he could get on the coast before eventually transporting cocaine for an acquaintance. He was caught and sentenced to 15 years in prison. By looking at the vast devastation with sober and poetic eyes, Trethewey has written a hauntingly beautiful book. (Sept.) (c)
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"Within this book's quiet thoughts lies a powerful story of things long gone that will never come back. What is lost can only be captured by memory. And Trethewey's prose captures memory with poetic precision." —W. Ralph Eubanks, All Things Considered

"By looking at the vast devastation with sober and poetic eyes, Trethewey has written a hauntingly beautiful book."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Heartfelt, righteous, humane, Beyond Katrina richly deserves to become one of the indispensable Katrina books."—Mobile Press-Register

"Beyond Katrina is more about the storm’s sociological and psychological results for the Coast and its people, North Gulfport in particular, than its physical damage. But it’s seldom about generalizations. . . . This is a powerful, sometimes painful, book that gets underneath comfortable memories—wherever the reader lives."—Biloxi and South Mississippi Sun Herald

“With Bellocq’s Ophelia and Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey demonstrated an uncanny and urgent empathy for overlooked but crucial persons and events in the American past. Beyond Katrina extends that nuanced vision and compassion into multiple dimensions of the past, present, and future of this immeasurable national tragedy. It is a great interpretive pleasure and a significant emotional experience to follow her as she sifts the personal, historical, political, and geographic modes of experience to reveal what hurricane Katrina has meant—and can and must mean—for the Gulf Coast and the nation as a whole.”—Anthony Walton, author of Mississippi: An American Journey

"Beyond Katrina examines both the public and personal impact of the tragedy from the perspective of a writer uniquely qualified to undertake such a fraught and challenging project. She brings to the volume an insider’s knowledge and deep-felt affection for the place and its culture, but also an expatriate’s sense of wary detachment. On a grander scale, the book is permeated with the sense that memory and the past can only exist as ruin. This book offers continuing evidence that Natasha Trethewey is one of our most indispensable poets, and tell us as well that she is a prose writer of the first order."—David Wojahn, author of Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982–2004

“With a powerful sense of place and of her own biracial identity, [Trethewey’s] poetry refracts the stories, real and imagined, of solitary individuals of the American South that are also part of the composite story of the nation—a story that the United States and the South seem ready to hear. . . . Stories close the distances between us; stories become the means by which we at last see each other in the light of recognition. If this in fact is so, then the unfettered stories told by poets are the hope of democracy everywhere. Sacrifice, endurance, duty, work, loss, courage, hope—these shimmer in Trethewey’s poetic imagination of remembrance and therein is their power to connect us.”—Jamil Zainaldin, SaportaReport

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Product Details

  • Series: Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820333816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820333816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Natasha Trethewey is the author of two previously published collections, Belloq's Ophelia and Domestic Work. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, she was the recipient of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Grolier Poetry Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches creative writing at Emory University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Natasha Trethewey is a powerful woman, a Pulitzer prize-winning poet and academic who grew up and out of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Her book reflects the varied facets of her character, being a collection of essays, poems, photographs and family stories that together form a portrait of the culture of these warm shore lands. The book is also an effort to draw attention and even investment to a part of the country that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but is often overlooked because of the focus on New Orleans.

As Trethewey paints a picture of the Gulfport of her grandmother's time, and explores the changes for her family over the years, she also interviews friends and neighbors and applies journalistic objectivity to the impacts of old storms and new ones. Looking back to Hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm in August of 1969 that flattened most of the Mississippi coast and killed 259, Trethewey finds that the region's people, including herself and her family, have lived with a sense of vulnerability and a certain fatalism ever since. Going further back, she sees the pattern of development that class and racial segregation created, which her uncle recognized when he returned from World War II. Uncle "Son" worked hard to overcome those barriers, and was able to open a small nightclub that funded his steady acquisition of rental properties in the black neighborhood of North Gulfport. Repairing the run-down places, he provided affordable housing to his community. Trethewey shows us the ripples of such individual action. Yet those rentals were to be her younger brother's inheritance, and their loss to Katrina set him on a desperate path and forced many neighbors out.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Darryl R. Morris on August 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Natasha Trethewey, the newly selected Poet Laureate of the U.S. and current professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, wrote this book, a combination of memoir, history and elegy, about her family and other residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was decimated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although the eye of the storm made landfall in Louisiana, the brunt of the winds and the associated coastal flooding was felt in cities such as Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. Over 90% of these towns were flooded, and nearly all private residences and public buildings suffered moderate to severe damage. At least 235 people were killed in the state as a result, and the region continues to feel the effects of the storm seven years later.

Natasha Trethewey grew up in North Gulfport, a mostly African-American portion of the city, from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. Although racial segregation and discrimination were formally outlawed by the time of her birth, its effects lingered in the Deep South for many years afterward, as many blacks continued to frequent stores owned by their neighbors and to employ local tradesmen. One of these men was her great-uncle Willie Dixon, known as "Son" to his family and neighbors, who used his earnings from his nightclub to repair, buy and sell rental properties in North Gulfport.

Her younger brother Joe took over the family business after Uncle Son's death, and his story of steady success followed by devastation and tragedy is the central element of this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sonya Huber on November 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize winning poet writes soaring and thoughtful nonfiction on the meaning of Hurricane Katrina, its impact specifically on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the meaning of memorialization and erasure of natural disaster, woven with memoir about the storm's impact on her family and on the area where the storm made landfall. The fact that material is often introduced in prose and then repeated as poetry made it twice as powerful and gave me a chance to savor the true impact of the author's reflections in this fine multi-genre work. The book weaves together so many subjects--from marshland to community planning, casinos to poverty, African-American history to concepts of race, imprisonment to work and community. It has the potential to create a healing narrative for not only a ravaged region but also for an country. Tretheway addresses familiar and important public and private sector forces that create and change cultures and environments; it resonated with me as a citizen of the United States even though I have no personal connection to the Gulf Coast.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miriam on September 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Natasha Trethewey gave me new insights even though I had read Zeitoun and other accounts of the tragedy and aftermath.
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By Cassandra Hayes on December 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Much like 9/11, most people can remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and it’s lasting effects. In times of crisis and natural disaster, America seems to come together and join as one unit, despite differences. People from other states come to the relief and offer help and however big or small that help may be, those on the receiving end are grateful. Natasha Tretheway touches on the devastation that was caused by Katrina in her memoir, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” and how people stepped up to offer help, while others could only help themselves in the midst of the tragedy.
In her book, Tretheway sheds light on the wreckage and aftermath of the hurricane in her hometown. She also lets the reader have a peak into the Gulf Coast pre-Katrina, because there are many who are ignorant or naïve as to what it was actually like. It was said after the hurricane hit that “They deserved it” or “It is a cleansing of the coast” and it is comments such as this that cause Tretheway to defend her hometown with such conviction and also why she feels the need to enlighten the reader on the lives of real people there.
While Tretheway was not living in Mississippi at the time of the hurricane, her family was so she saw it’s effects in great detail. She doesn’t let it go unsaid, though, that the people of America banded together to help. The relief efforts after Katrina were unbelievable and really pulled at the local’s hearts strings. The gambling town was quickly restored and made to draw more tourists in by building monuments of Katrina, but there were many families who did not have such luck and struggled to get on their feet.
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