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Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales Paperback – May 31, 1987

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Garlic hangs from the rafters. The Loup Garou holds a convention on Bayou Goula. Spiders dwell in haunted houses. Images of St. Rosalia are carried from church to church. King Zulu parades on Mardi Gras day.
The sights and sounds of Louisiana come alive in Gumbo Ya-Ya ("everybody talks at once"). Long considered the finest collection of Louisiana folk tales and customs, this new edition chronicles the stories and legends that have emerged from across the Bayou State.

All aspects of society are detailed in this wonderful album of Louisiana tradition: the old-family Creoles, with their strict codes of honor; the fun-loving Cajuns, with their curious family names and spirited fais do-do; the proud blacks, with their fascinating blend of Christianity and voodoo.

Ghosts also abound in these pages-including the headless horseman of Natchitoches, the whimsical apparition who startled citizens of Monroe, and the haunted woods in the Mackeville area.

Gumbo Ya-Ya is a charming look at the legends and practices of Louisiana. Originally written as part of the WPA's Louisiana Writers' Program, it has endured as a classic of its genre.

About the Author

ROBERT TALLANT (1909-1957) was one of Louisiana's best-known authors and a participant in the WPA Writers' Project during the 1930s and 1940s. During the last years of his life, he was a lecturer in English at Newcomb College.

Lyle Saxon (1891-1946) ranks among Louisiana's most outstanding writers. During the 1920s and 1930s he was the central figure in the regionís literary community, and was widely known as a raconteur and bon vivant. In addition to Father Mississippi, Lafitte the Pirate, and Children of Strangers, he also wrote Fabulous New Orleans, Old Louisiana, The Friends of Joe Gilmore, and was a co-author of Gumbo Ya-Ya, with Edward Dreyer and Robert Tallant. During the Depression, he directed the state WPA Writers Project, which produced the WPA Guide to Louisiana and the WPA Guide to New Orleans.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing; 1st pbk. ed edition (May 31, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0882896458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0882896458
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Originally published as part of the WPA's Louisiana Writer's Program, this charming book of Louisiana Folk Tales was a favorite book in my home while growing up. (So much so, that as a young adult I searched high and low for a copy to call my own. Imagine my delight to find that Amazon Books carries it!)
While some in this age of "political correctness" might blanch at the phonetic rendering of the words of African-Americans in some of the stories; it should be remembered that this book attempts to replicate the actual speech patterns of the individuals interviewed. These same renderings are not generic and gives one the feel of actually being there, on a sultry Louisiana night, "rocking on the porch, ice-tea and fan in hand", being regaled by the stories of the "old-timers".
In this delightful book you will find everything from "Cajun colloquialisms" to "The Mysterious Axeman's (sic) Jazz".
Or re-visit the songs of the street criers and capture the feel of a long ago "Dixieland funeral".
Explore the legend of Marie Laveau as well as the story of the saintly "Mother Shannon". Looking for ghost tales? or maybe the words to some old-time "Spirituals"? Then search no more! This book lives and breathes and I promise you, you will not forget it!
This review is dedicated to the late Col. Thomas Frith Bienvenu, at who's knee I learned to love the rich tapestry which is Louisiana!
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Format: Paperback
This really wasn't what I expected. I thought "Folk Tales of Louisiana" would be just that -- tall folk tales, maybe of ghosts, the loup garou, voodoo, etc. But it's much better. It's as if you dropped a listening device into Louisiana in the 1940s and asked everyone to just start talking . . . . about anything. The result is a fascinating mixture of personal memories, stories, myths, historical accounts, and just about everything you could imagine, to give a flavor of life in the Louisiana (more New Orleans than other parts of the state) from the late 1800s to 1945.

One of the great things about the WPA Writer's Project was the opportunity it gave writers to capture the life of their time in the first person. This may be the best example I've read. It has an authentic feel to it, owing to the liberal use of direct quotes, and even the sometimes cringe-worthy capture of dialect and attitudes. We learn from first-hand sources about the celebrations, life on the street, gangs, crime, ethnic and racial divides and hierarchies, poverty, pirates, and all the rest. It's not always easy to listen to.

The writers capture what they hear faithfully, relaying what they hear with a raw directness that conveys, for the greatest part, a respect for those they hear it from. The one exception I have to mention is the chapter on "Songs" where I have to imagine a different author (there are three co-authors for the book) takes over, and the voice becomes that of an anthropologist talking about "the Negro", as well as Creole and Cajun life, looking from the outside in, instead of letting the people themselves do the talking. That the chapter stands in such stark contrast to the rest of the book speaks to the authenticity of the remainder, though.

I enjoyed the book immensely, and I learned from it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read this book when I was in middle school or high school back in the 1970s. It quickly became my favorite book and remains one of my all time favorites. This book is chock full of Louisiana folklore. As an African American of Cajun descent, I enjoyed reading about the Cajuns along the bayous. I myself grew up along Bayou Barataria. My favorite stories include the loup garou, Cajuns and city dwelling Creoles. While I still have my hardback copy, I would love to have a copy for my Kindle. I recommend other books by Tallant and Saxon.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book from my childhood in Louisiana. It scared the beejeebers out of me when I was little but it is a very accurate chronicle of the way South Louisiana used to be anyway. It was certainly that way in the 1950s and since the book was written in 1945 it really hit home. The illustrations still give me shivers.
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Format: Paperback
Gumbo Ya-Ya is an excellent read. Learn more about the Cajun and Creole cultures by reading the stories contained within this treasure. An excellent reference to hand down to your children.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love this book, as a recent visitor to New Orleans it captures the flavor well
It could not be published in it's vintage form today, definitely old school language and not PC but it gives a key hole look of the time
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm very impressed with both the product and service. The book was in pristine condition when I received it, and it arrived very quickly. The book itself - "Gumbo Ya-Ya: Folk Tales of Louisiana" - is a lot of fun! I gave the book as a birthday gift to a friend who is a Lousiana native and he has enjoyed it thoroughly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in l;ocal folklore of New Orleans, a great city to visit, reading this book will be a joy to anyone who loves New Orleans.
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