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Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster Paperback – July 3, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (July 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046501772X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465017720
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The first major book to be released about Hurricane Katrina, Dyson's volume not only chronicles what happened when, it also argues that the nation's failure to offer timely aid to Katrina's victims indicates deeper problems in race and class relations. Dyson's time lines will surely be disputed, his indictments of specific New Orleans failures defended or whitewashed. But these points are secondary. More important are the larger questions Dyson (Between God and Gangsta Rap, etc.) poses, such as "What do politicians sold on the idea of limited governance offer to folk who need, and deserve, the government to come to their aid?" "Does George Bush care about black people?" and "Do well-off black people care about poor black people?" With its abundance of buzz-worthy coinages, like "Aframnesia" and "Afristocracy," Dyson's populist style sometimes gets too cute. But his contention that Katrina exposed a dominant culture pervaded not only by "active malice" toward poor blacks but also by a long history of "passive indifference" to their problems is both powerful and unsettling. Through this history of neglect, Dyson suggests, America has broken its social contract with poor blacks who, since Emancipation, have assumed that government will protect all its citizens. Yet when disaster struck the poor, the cavalry arrived four days late. (Jan. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The lessons of Katrina are not just a moment to feel shame, but an opportunity to give ourselves one last chance to deal - truly deal - with the ongoing tragedy of inequality in America. Dyson thinks we can do it and so do I." Michael Moore "Dyson leaves no stone unturned as he breaks down what went wrong after Katrina... Whether the government response to Katrina will become as much of an albatross as the war in Iraq remains to be seen. Books like this will certainly help to tip the balance." The Independent"

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Customer Reviews

Gives the TRUTH of what really happened.
Dyson wrote this book with great speed representing his passion for the people of New Orleans.
Joseph G Williams
Unfortunately, Dyson doesn't proffer many arguments to support this position.
Lawrence Miley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Professor on February 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I live in New Orleans and I love most aspects of the city. I evacuated before the storm and we lost our home and most of our possessions to flooding. But, this has merely been an inconvenience for me in many ways. As one who had to buy flood insurance to get a mortgage, we were lucky - with the insurance settlement and the sale of gutted house, we will soon be back on our feet financially.

However, spiritually and emotionally, Katrina has changed my life. Much of that is because of the things Dyson writes about in this book. I watched with horror, outrage and sadness as our government (at all levels) failed the people of New Orleans. New Orleanians knew but generally did not speak about the huge racial and class divisions within the city. As I took myself (and my dog) out of the city, I knew thousands would be left behind, and generally felt there was nothing I could do. I had get myself to safety. Of course, Dyson doesn't let people like me off the hook, which is a good thing.

It is painful to read Dyson's book because in so many ways it speaks the truth about our country's attitudes toward the poor and toward African Americans, as well as our government's continued response to their issues. These issues didn't begin with a hurricane; it took that to remind the entire country that we are not a classless society. The book was insightful in many ways, and it provided new information about what really happened. Dyson's writing is searing and unforgiving.

However, I only rate this book 4 stars instead of 5 because it is almost too hard on Bush. I am not a big fan of Bush, and believe wholeheartedly that the federal government bears a great deal of responsibility over its lousy and cruel response to this disaster.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By soulonice on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book has the ability to make us think deeply about the situation not only in the Gulf Coast, but with the people of that territory, their condition, and the way we treat them. He had a lengthy critique of the federal government and their response to Katrina (or lack thereof). The book also forces us to look at ourselves and ask what we could have and what we can do to do a better job of being "our brother's keeper" so to speak. I say this because the general public has done a tremendous job of raising money, providing resources, and our time to the victims, but we must continue to do so. We cannot do it temporarily; the people need our help and it is our duty and responsibility to be there for those in need. Don't get me wrong; it certainly does not excuse the government of their poor and horrendous response to the hurricane, but we must bear some responsibility for our treatment of them. This book clearly states that and much more.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on June 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
From the removal of the funds needed to shore up the levees, the willful ignoring of severe hurricane warnings, the destruction of the wetlands to the deploying of the National Guard to Iraq and the incredibly slow response time from FEMA, Hurricane Katrina was a disaster waiting to happen. Michael Eric Dyson, in COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, lists all the reasons that this natural disaster did not have to be as devastating as it was. Even as people were ordered to evacuate, the government had to know that many would be unable to leave because they had no private transportation, yet no means were offered to these urban poor for escape. For those who did manage to leave the Lower 9th Ward and get to the Superdome, even more horror awaited them as they lived without food or water, in their own bodily wastes while the hurricane blew two large holes in the roof. Still rescue was not imminent.

As the citizens sat atop their roofs begging for rescue, ugly rumors spread that they were shooting at their rescuers. When the real story came out, they were simply attempting to attract the attention of the circling helicopters. The elderly, the infirm, and the poor were trapped in attics and on roofs for days with nothing as bodies floated in the water or sat propped in chairs in public. For those black citizens who attempted to get food, water or clothing from abandoned stores, accusations of 'looting' abounded while white citizens who were doing the same were pictured as 'finding' these items. Even the local officials helped pass on stories of degradation, murder and mayhem, yet most of these stories were untrue.

Dyson connects the New Orleans disconnect to the sometimes blatant, but mostly hidden racism that consciously or unconsciously rules American society.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Orange Fly on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"If we are to have a national debate about race and class as a result of the revelations brought by the storm, this book is a fine place to start. It is also a useful platform for a discussion of what citizens have a right to expect from local and federal government...In COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, his forceful analysis of the issues of race and class revealed in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, `hip-hop intellectual' Michael Eric Dyson recreates in words those powerful visual images of people abandoned in attics, on rooftops, wading through floodwater, suffering in the Superdome...That it was, and that the situation was such an outrage is behind the righteous anger that fuels Dyson's fast-paced narrative...As we begin the painful process of rebuilding, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER provides a stirring exhortation not to fall into the traps of the past."

-Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune
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