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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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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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"Heartfelt, righteous, humane, Beyond Katrina richly deserves to become one of the indispensable Katrina books."—Mobile Press-Register
“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
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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. Houses were torn down, against the owners’ will, because they were condemned and people didn’t have the money to fix them in the amount of time that was required. But, despite all of this, the people of the Gulf pressed forward, Tretheway explains.
It was not all bliss after the hurricane. Tretheway tells about her brothers girlfriend Aesha’s experience. She lived in an apartment, was a model tenant and had a son who lived with her. Despite her never being late on rent, never causing any problems or anything, after the hurricane she got kicked out by her landlords, because they needed room to house their own family. This is an example of how in ways Katrina was almost a survival of the fittest scenario for the locals. Everyone had to take care of his own before he could worry about anyone else.
Despite situations like that one, it is pretty unanimous that the people who experienced the detrimental effects of hurricane Katrina felt the help and love offered by others. Tretheway warns the reader that you can never be so sure about home. It is always temporary and there is no way to secure it. Home changes and can never be re-found once it is lost. A new one can be rebuilt, but the old one is forever just a memory.