Now that we are moving close to the 10th anniversary of that thing that almost took New Orleans for good, yes, Hurricane Katrina, we’ve been seeing a plethora of books, articles, events and such about the disaster and aftermath.
Back in the ‘60s Hurricane Betsy was a pretty devastating hurricane where neighborhoods were flooded and people died. I wonder why that storm is not remembered like Katrina? Of course, anyone who lived through that storm has their own stories to tell.
New Graphic Novel Drowned City Puts You in the Heart of the Action as Hurricane Katrina Barrels Through New Orleans
But Katrina caused so much devastation and the uprooting of lives and families and the deaths of not only the 1800 or so that died during the storm and the days immediately afterwards but of hundreds of folks who later on either committed suicide, got cancer, strokes or heart disease from the stress of trying to make their lives right.
We’re talking about the stress of dealing with the government’s Road Home program, insurance companies, dishonest contractors, families pulled apart and scattered far and wide. And in general the people who flocked to the area to take advantage of and prey on those who were suffering.
To many people who are from New Orleans and live in the city, having to unwillingly move somewhere else is like pulling the plug on life support. You can perhaps survive but it ain’t New Orleans where people are plugged into an amazing rhythm of life like nowhere on the planet.
To get a real glimpse of what it was like to be in New Orleans August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina sent its ravaging winds and flooded tides through this area, Drowned City, by author and illustrator Don Brown, is what you would call a graphic novel. But no, it’s not really a novel, it’s more like a graphic history of those days in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The artist did a similar thing in his book The Great American Dustbowl.
Told in comic book format Brown’s narrative tells what happened to people who tried to evacuate and those who were left behind, or just refused to move as the storm bore down on the city. It recounts the destruction of the seawalls and neighborhoods, the rescues from rooftops, the squalid and horrific conditions in the Superdome and the Morial Convention Center, the staggering failures of our politicians, and the struggles of people trying to survive and make sense of it all.
It is a story of tragedy and triumph and a salute to the resilient people of this region. The illustrations and the flow of the story are so effective that you feel in a way that you’ve actually gotten a real glimpse of the experience, transported back to when the city was hit by the big one, something that only a graphic novel such as this could do. It really puts you in the action.
It’s also a great little history lesson that would help to fill in the gaps of what people around the country thought happened and what really happened. I like that he doesn’t seem to take sides politically.
And for dialogue he uses statements from the people who were actually experiencing the storm and the devastation. It gives it a real sense of truth and let’s the people tell the story instead of made up statements being infused from the outside by someone who was not there.
Although I enjoyed the book very much (not sure if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word) I take issue with one thing stated on the cover flap. It implies that Hurricane Katrina affected the African-American community the hardest and says a weather disaster became a race disaster.
This ‘race disaster’ thing is something that has been promulgated by the media and those who take advantage of such notions always wanting to look at an unfortunate event where blacks are involved as having some kind of racial or racist overtones.
But thousands of whites also had their homes destroyed and flooded. The Lakeview community was one such place and it is now only in the last few years that it is coming back. If 80% of the city flooded do you not think that many white neighborhoods were among them? Of course there were.
But of course you never saw or heard about any of this from the news media. That kind of stuff doesn’t ‘sell.’ Their cameras were focused mainly on black people and their neighborhoods. Rarely was there any talk or footage of whites who had their homes and neighborhoods destroyed as well.
Let me tell you you the real race disaster. It was the New Orleans public school system and many of its administrators and teachers, mostly all black, that for years had stolen, squandered and ‘lost’ tens of millions of dollars that should have gone to the schools and the students’ education. But instead went into people’s pockets. So bad was it that many teachers were forced to provide their own school supplies for their students even to the point of having to buy toilet paper for the restrooms.
These schools provided sub-standard education and thousands of blacks suffered this at the hands of their own people. Some were graduated out of high schools who could barely read, write or cipher. The schools were so bad that the state had to take them over. I would say that our high crime rate had very much to do with young people getting a poor education and not getting proper direction in life.
Despite the tragedy of lives and homes lost and neighborhoods destroyed, which Drowned City does so well depicting in its 93 beautifully drawn pages, Hurricane Katrina did us a favor by blowing apart the New Orleans school system. Now almost all of the public schools are charter.
And finally after all these years, really decades, our young, black kids are getting a good education, one that challenges them and prepares them for the world so they can have a positive and lasting impact on our community.
I would not call that a race disaster. I would call that a triumph. And now New Orleans is considered to have THE best school system in the country. Race disaster? I don’t think so.
The real race disaster is black on black crime that’s now epidemic not only in New Orleans but other American cities as well. The real race disaster was the New Orleans public school system in effect stealing the future of thousands of black kids to line their own pockets, perpetrated by their own.
Hurricane Katrina was not a race disaster, but a human disaster on a grand scale. Everyone who lived in the city, rich, middle class and poor, was affected in some way or another. To say one class or race of people suffered more than the other is not a true portrayal of the facts. And it’s divisive.
But I don’t really blame the creator of this book for that belief. It was burned into the public psyche by the media within days after Katrina had drifted northward and turned into a mere rainstorm. And that belief has continued to this day.
All in all Drowned City is definitely worth having and experiencing. Brown has done an admirable job portraying the Hurricane Katrina disaster to this great American city, New Orleans, in a matter-of-fact, effective and, thankfully, unsentimental way.
Although it says it’s for teens and young adults I think anyone of any age would appreciate this book.
You can go now and get Drowned City on Amazon.com