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Poor Man's Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana Hardcover – January 1, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to newspaper columnist Johnson, life in Cajun Country, deep in the heart of Southeast Louisiana, is "the opposite of live and let live; it's more like mind my business and I'll mind yours." In this largely winning read, Johnson does exactly that with the residents of her adopted, beloved Bayou home, Henderson, La. Her distinct perspective, that of an accepted neighbor who's still considered an outsider, drives this observational memoir. Travel readers will enjoy chucklesome details-a town with about five surnames, Henderson's phone book "is the only one... I know of to use nicknames in its listings"-but Johnson's news background proves both blessing and curse. On one hand, she's a fearless reporter, but her profiles too often cut short just when they're getting good. She touches on the poverty, racism and other troubles (like hurricanes), but doesn't probe in much depth, effectively reducing some of her friends and neighbors to two-dimensional ciphers. Where she does achieve a more nuanced portrait, readers will find a wonderful, personal look into a Cajun community.
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Review

Poor Man's Provence is a rich examination of a colorful, cultural state. -- The Daily Advertiser

Rheta Grimsley Johnson hooks her readers with tale after tale of holidays and home cooking in paradise. -- First Draft
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: NewSouth Books; Second Edition edition (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588382184
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588382184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Somewhat like the wonderful nonfiction works of Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highways" and Raban's "Passage to Juneau", only better, much better. Like those two travel novels, "Poor Man's Provence", entertains with unique true anecdotes and historical facts about the down home exotic people and places of the Acadiana ("Cajun") Country, Louisiana. Woven into the colorful quilt of her writing, Rheta Grimsley Johnson also gives us wicked irony, Twain like humor and a little subtle, sincere, simple human philosophy. Unlike "Blue Highways" and "Passage to Juneau", "Poor Man's Provence" is not a travelogue, but instead represents ten years of learning and loving the gentle folks of Cajun Louisiana. It's a great book to read if you think that you will ever want to see this part of the American South, and it's still plenty entertaining even if you just want to get to know the natives vicariously. If there is any justice in such things, this must read book should win lots of awards.
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Format: Hardcover
Poor Man's Provence: - Having a fair amount of familiarity with the area and people, I'd say Mrs. Grimsley wrote as good of a memoir of this part of Louisiana as any. Whether one is familiar with the area of not, it would be worth reading it ahead of time to get the most of the visit to Cajun Country. From beginning to end I felt like I knew the central figures in this non-fictional memoir, Johnelle & Jennette, and they didn't disapoint. The place is crawling with people like them and it'll please and even surprise them all to know a transplant appreciates them for just being themselves. Whether the writer, Miss Rheta(as locals would call her), intended it or not, she and Don are now a part of Cajun's lives forever and we're all grateful for her memoir and presence.
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Format: Hardcover
All ethnic groups have their on distinct qualities and because of this most are completely misunderstood. Cajuns are no exception. I know when I was a kid I wanted be black. I truly didn't understand why then, but over the years thinking back I know it was because of the sense of pride that most of my black friends had. Ms. Johnson has tapped in to the Cajun pride. She conveys with humor and humility the love they have for their land and family, as well for others not of their ethnicity. Her love for them shines brightly. I love this book and highly recommend it to all.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1996, after having covered the South for over three decades as a newspaper reporter and columnist, Rheta Grimsley Johnson., with her husband Don, journeyed from their home in Iuka, Miss., to the shores of the vast Atchafalaya Swamp.

They purchased the Green Queen, a gawky one-room houseboat, and soon bought a cottage in the nearby town of Henderson, which "may well be the funkiest little town in Louisiana." There she fell in love with the people, traditions and culture of Acadiana.

A marvelous prose stylist, Johnson delivers a glowing encomium of the Cajuns--their music, food, occupations and celebrations--a people bubbling with joie de vivre and having an unselfish commitment to family and friends--"the salt of the earth"--who will literally give you the shirt off their back.

For the past decade, Rheta and Don have made their second home in Henderson, where they enjoy authentic Cajun culture. In Poor Man's Provence, she debunks the myth that "all Cajuns are illiterate hicks, backwards bumpkins."

Poor Man's Provence reveals a warm humanity and is a fun book to read.

Rheta Grimsely Johnson's reporting has won awards including the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award for human interest reporting (1983), the Headliner Award for commentary (1985), and the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Distinguished Writing Award for commentary (1982). In 1986 she was inducted into the Scripps Howard Newspapers Editorial Hall of Fame, and in 1991 Johnson was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Syndicated today by King Features, Johnson's column appears in about fifty papers nationwide. She is the author of several books, including America's Faces (1987) and Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz (1989).
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Format: Hardcover
As a non-native Louisiana resident, I know my state to be one of the most misunderstood and badly stereotyped in the U.S. It is only once I lived here myself that I discovered the diversity and wealth of natural resources that the state has to offer. Ms Johnson's book is a delight to read and brings the people and places of Cajun Louisiana to life. She does not gloss over the state's challenges, but does offer the reader a true and heartwarming view of what make the Cajun lifestyle so unique in the gumbo that is Louisiana.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an indigenous Cajun from a slightly different locale--a bayou community of Southeast LA [ and an educated one, a book-reader and writer/teacher myself], I can attest to the fact that her insights and observations are true. Take it from a resident--this is the Real Deal captured in stylish, stunning, insightful poetic prose. Sadly, this place which she depicts and where I grew up and still live is disappearing daily. What she describes was widely true and 100% evident in the 50s and early 60s when I grew up.. Now found only in isolated spots. Will be gone tomorrow as the life-giving waters which provided the economic sustenance for the transported refugee/inhabitants [both fishing and oil production] continue, not-so-slowly-but-surely, taking over land areas. Guaranteed. Catch it in this book before it is completely gone.
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