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Down in New Orleans: Reflections from a Drowned City [Kindle Edition]

Billy Sothern , Nikki Page
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $36.95
Kindle Price: $12.95
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Book Description

“Post-Katrina New Orleans hasn't been an easy place to live, it hasn't been an easy place to be in love, it hasn't been an easy place to take care of yourself or see the bright side of things.” So reflects Billy Sothern in this riveting and unforgettable insider's chronicle of the epic 2005 disaster and the year that followed. Sothern, a death penalty lawyer who with his wife, photographer Nikki Page, arrived in the Crescent City four years ahead of Katrina, delivers a haunting, personal, and quintessentially American story. Writing with an idealist's passion, a journalist's eye for detail, and a lawyer's attention to injustice, Sothern recounts their struggle to come to terms with the enormity of the apocalyptic scenario they managed to live through. He guides the reader on a journey through post-Katrina New Orleans and an array of indelible images: prisoners abandoned in their cells with waters rising, a longtime New Orleans resident of Middle Eastern descent unfairly imprisoned in the days following the hurricane, trailer-bound New Orleanians struggling to make ends meet but celebrating with abandon during Mardi Gras, Latino construction workers living in their trucks. As a lawyer-activist who has devoted his life to procuring justice for some of society's most disenfranchised citizens, Sothern offers a powerful vision of what Katrina has meant to New Orleans and what it still means to the nation at large.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Sothern, an attorney, focuses on New Orleans stories that have been largely overlooked by the mainstream press. Everyone saw the chaos at the Superdome, but Sothern talks to people who were there, and refutes count by count the many crimes reported to have occurred inside it. He eloquently and angrily shows how devastatingly easy it can be for those in power to cast aside the rule of law our society relies on. In outrage he recalls how the prisoners in New Orleans' jail—most of whom had yet to be tried, let alone convicted—had to break open their cell doors to swim to safety. He follows the story of residents suddenly arrested as suspected terrorists and held for weeks with no family contact. Sothern's own story of escape and return adds a personal facet to a Katrina book that looks not to the destruction wrought by the storm, but to that caused by the suspension of rights by those in charge of a great American city now truly in ruins. Mondor, Colleen


“A necessary reminder that the problems that led to Katrina still exist.”
(E! The Environmental Magazine 2008-02-01)

Product Details

  • File Size: 2856 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0520251490
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (August 27, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002Z13PMC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,719 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced, wide-ranging, moving account May 26, 2014
Some reviews have commented on the socio-political views behind the book. For me one of the best aspects of the book was its lack of overbearing political slant. I really don't like interacting with those who have knee-jerk, one-sided political views, whether liberal or conservative, and so at first I thought this book might irritate me, but I actually loved it. The writer takes a very honest and matter-of-fact approach to everything. He doesn't hide his own progressive views--to do so would be false--but they don't determine his account of events. He writes of the suffering caused by racist policies, but he also writes with great compassion about the devastation of white St. Bernard Parish, and explains in an even-handed way why white people fled to the "Parish" in the 1960s to escape school desegregation--in a way that allows for understanding and not just self-righteous condemnation. One reviewer suggested Sothern is uniformly hostile to "law and order," but that was not the case; he makes a point of highlighting the exhaustion and the fortitutde of some of the police officers working in New Orleans just after the hurricane (he encounters one during his first drive back to the city). I read the book because I'll be moving to New Orleans in a few months. This book has helped me become a bit less of an ignorant outsider--now I know about some of the major recent events, cultural traditions and social concerns that are a part of the New Orleans collective consciousness. The first chapters of the book are less interesting (e.g. where he tells his own story of escaping to Oxford, Mississippi); but later chapters fill in pieces of New Orleans reality mixed with brief historical context. Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars Short look at a long story May 9, 2011
By Sean
Format:Kindle Edition
I liked this book because it made me examine some pre-concieved notions I had(have.) It took me several chapters to figure out the author's race and religion and my perceptions morphed during the exercise.

I used to live in New Orleans and my brother still does. He was there through Katrina and I was there less than 2 weeks after.

The book presents some of the most grievous episodes of post-Katrina NOLA--evacuees turned back on the Crescent City connection, the handling of state prisoners, the case of Abdulrahman Zeitoun and tries to extrapolate from them a theory of systematic oppression. I didn't quite buy it, but the author shines a light on some obvious problems in southern Louisiana.

As a lawyer who represents death penalty prisoners he has a clear bias against law enforcement and "the system." Every instance of authority paints the law enforcement officers in the worst possible light. I don't doubt that there are bad cops in New Orleans, but I worked with many noble selfless officers when I worked in the Emergnecy Rooms in Baton Rouge, Metairie and Bay St Louis, MS. Still, there's no defense for women pushing strollers to be forced back to the Superdome at shotgun point.

The book reads like a confession from the author who is trying to exorcise his survivor's guilt rather than an objective reflection on what happened. It is an interesting an compelling read, but it's only a few moments of one side of a very long story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing January 25, 2011
The book is amazingly written and inspired me to fall even more in love with New Orleans. The painful facts of what happened after Katrina and the light they shed on the entire situation in this wonderful city historically are painted in wonderful prose and journalistic rigor. The book has different sections; some history, some personal experiences, and some vignettes of people and systems after the storm. The book is a good length to leave one feeling satisfied but not overburdened. Although the subject matter is difficult to swallow and not necessarily pleasant to think about the author inspires hope. Just knowing that people with his unique and informed viewpoint exist and are working hard to make this world a better place made me feel calm and inspired to continue dedicating my life to such work. It is rare in this world to find positivity and Billy Sothern oozes it but not in a traditional sense-his educated cynicism and analytical mind set give him an uncanny grasp on the injustice int he world, but he is smart and positive enough to do something about it. JUST READ THIS BOOK IT'S AMAZING!
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