Wilbert Rawlins Jr.

“I’m all the father he’s ever going to have! I drove over to the Desire and put the wood on his ass until he apologized, and today in the band room Ramón had focus!”

Ronald W. Lewis

Oh, those plumbers and laborers in their thousand-dollar finery, Ronald thought as he whirled and danced with half the Lower Nine falling in behind. Today, those common men are kings!

JoAnn Guidos

“It’s JoAnn full time now. No more John. No more switch hitting. Forty double-D. I got good genes. On hormones, men usually get Bs, maybe a C.”

Belinda Carr

“Maybe that’s it! Maybe I’m not used to being taken care of! I can’t get used to it! I came up hungry.”

Anthony Wells 

“I had on this cold-blooded leather coat and I can feel them bullets hitting it. I’m like, motherfucker: my brand-new Orbach’s leather coat. Six holes in it and not a scratch on me. Some kind of voodoo.”

Timothy Bruneau

“Help me roll her up in that. We can’t leave her here all day.”

Joyce Montana

“You won’t believe this: I have Tootie going to church. St. Augustine has a new priest named Father LeDoux. Tootie mostly go when there’s a funeral. The way Father LeDoux does a funeral touch his heart.”

Frank Minyard

“Corinne, listen to me. A lot of these people died from heat exhaustion, dehydration, stress, and from being without their medication -- from neglect, basically. They were abandoned out there. So it’s political, what killed them.”

Billy Grace

What’s wrong with us? Billy thought. Is New Orleans proud of being backward and insular? He recalled explaining to newcomer executives that no, you had to wait to be invited into a Mardi Gras krewe. It wasn’t just a matter of fees.

    When the New Orleans levees collapsed after Hurricane Katrina, I was sent by The New Yorker to cover the disaster. I arrived two days after the city flooded, and remained for about two weeks. After a quick visit home, I returned to New Orleans just in time for Hurricane Rita. Then I was back and forth to New Orleans for most of the following year, to write one long article about how the New Orleans Police Department functioned during the crisis, and another about how the city squandered the year following the storm.

    Even writing for a long-form magazine like The New Yorker, I was frustrated by having to focus so much

on the disaster and its aftermath. Hurricane Katrina is hardly the most interesting thing about New Orleans. The food, the music, and the architecture of New Orleans are fabulous, but it’s the unusual nature of the city’s people that make New Orleans unlike anyplace else in the United States. Obviously I couldn’t write a book about all the people of New Orleans, so I chose these nine. Some I met during the crisis; others I met long after. All of them spent many hours telling me their life stories, with nothing to gain but the very New Orleans pleasure in storytelling.

                                        -- Dan Baum

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