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Why New Orleans Matters Hardcover – November 22, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Insightful… a sensory paradise... Why New Orleans Matters is a celebration of the spirit of New Orleans.” (BookInfo.net)

“An enjoyable meander through what used to be called ‘the city that care forgot.’” (Houston Chronicle)

“Powerful, rich with anger, longing, and barely expressible loss.” (Providence Phoenix)

“Hot and real and from the heart… An emotionally wrenching experience—at times hilarious, at times heartbreaking.” (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

“Pensive and elegiac… sharp [and] steely. …A mournful dirge and a vivacious ode to the city.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“A minor miracle unto itself… a heartfelt, 180-page manifesto… There’s a little something for everyone.” (Gambit Weekly)

Humanities Book of the Year Award, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (No Source)

Best Book Award, New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association (No Source)

PRAISE FOR MY COLD WAR:“Tom Piazza’s writing pulsates with nervous electrical tension--reveals the emotions that we can’t define.” (Bob Dylan)

From the Back Cover

Tom Piazza's award-winning portrait of a city in crisis, with a new preface from the author, ten years after.

Ten years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the disaster that followed, promises were made, forgotten, and renewed. What would become of New Orleans in the years ahead? How would this city and its people recover—and what meaning would its story have, for America and the world?

In Why New Orleans Matters, first published only months after the disaster, award-winning author and longtime New Orleans resident Tom Piazza illuminates the storied culture and still-evolving future of this great and vital American metropolis. Piazza evokes the sensuous textures of the city that gave us jazz music, Creole cooking, and a unique style of living; he examines the city's undercurrents of corruption and racism, and explains how its people endure and transcend them. And, perhaps most important, he bears witness to the city's spirit: its grace and beauty, resilience and soul.

In the preface to this new edition, Piazza considers how far the city has come in the decade since Katrina, as well as the challenges it still faces—and reminds us that people in threatened communities across America have much to learn from New Orleans' disaster and astonishing recovery.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (November 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061124834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061124839
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harry S. Tervalon, Jr. on November 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was born in New Orleans almost six decades ago. I pride myself in having never left the City under threat of a hurricane. And, so, there was no difference with this one the Weather Service named Katrina. A long time ago, I was a police officer and the sense of duty to your City and to your Community stays with you.

And so, I stayed and along with my parents that I took in to my Uptown Apartment, we weathered the storm. It was a tough night but we made it through and on Monday morning felt we were victorious. Even after the levee failed, we remained in the city until Wednesday, August 31, 2005.

The rest is history. I visited the City in September and early October and made my final return in the middle of October to do my part in the rebuilding. This past Saturday (November 19, 2005), I was at the Garden District Book Store to purchase a number of novels by Poppy Z. Brite as gifts to people who assisted me in my travels after Katrina.

I was introduced to Tom Piazza and decided to purchase his novel WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS. I am so happy I did. Mr. Piazza is an outsider (a person not born in New Orleans) but this guy sure has it right for his adopted City. He writes about and fully understands New Orleans and the people of New Orleans. And, he does so as if he was born here and spent his whole life walking the streets and enjoying the great experience of living here and at the same time noting the negatives.

Mr. Piazza takes you on a tour of the places the locals hang out. He does it in such a way as to enliven your senses. Whether it is about the architecture, the culinary wizardry of our chefs and cooks, the music, the people, he gets it right.
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Format: Hardcover
As a native New Orleanian, I wondered what compelling case Tom Piazza could make to the rest of the nation. I wasn't sure if the book was written as a sort of cathartic love-letter to the city, or as a case for allocation of the funds necessary to right the wrongs that led to the disaster.

This book is more the former than the latter, and it stands on its own as such. It has been my experience that visitors either love or really dislike New Orleans, to be charitable about it. It's the glass-half-full thing. Either you love our slow, beautiful, messy, fun-loving, on-the-surface, play-before-work, family-is-everything city...or you don't. People who value family and culture and a slower, more stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of life, will be enchanted with the city through this book if they've never had the occasion to visit.

People who are all about efficiency, good government, growing economies, antiseptic cleanliness and timeliness won't. That's the bottom line. Either you are a New Orleans kind of person or you aren't.

If there is a point that Piazza manages to drive home, it is how unique our city is, particularly with respect to culture and way of life, and he argues that it merits preservation on those grounds. If you are looking for a balanced treatise examining the pros and cons of the city topographically and scientifically, how the city contributes to the American economy, the reasons for the flooding disaster (and for the record, most New Orleanians feel it was a man-made disaster brought on by Federal engineering errors) -- this book is not it.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Piazza is known for his jazz and music writing, but in fact he is one of the best writers around, period. In "Why New Orleans Matters," he zings one from the heart and hits the bullseye. The book manages to be uplifting, inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. For someone who's been to New Orleans several times, I found it both reminded me all over again of why I love the place, while simultaneously illuminating corners of the city and its culture that I didn't know about. And the descriptions of both the author's solo return and a subsequent and devastating trip with his lady to inspect the damage to her house are scalding tour de forces that really make tangible the pain and the loss. More than anything, Piazza's love and passion for the place, the people and the culture comes through--communicating why, as the title says, it matters, and why we must save it. Of course, on an even broader level, I think the fate of New Orleans is emblematic of the battle that is being waged for the soul of the country--as the corporate interests leech what is good and real out of everything, in their singleminded and ultimately short-sighted pursuit of the holy dollar. I think and hope that we can turn the tide, and I think that this book will help in that fight. It makes the stakes clear to anyone who reads it.
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Format: Hardcover
In the wake of hurricane Katrina New Orleans faces losing a lot that has made this city a great and unique American city. This book hits the high points concernig why New Orleans matters and needs to be salvaged. I have lived here for 27 of my 57 years and frankly don't want to live anywhere else. The city charmrd me with it's culture, history, love of food, festiveness, and most of all just plain uniqueness. It's like no other city on earth, not to say it's perfect, it's not and that only adds to the magnetism. A good read I would reccomend to everyone. Jan Jenevein proud New Orleans area resident.
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