An Oral History of the New Orleans Ninth Ward. Caroline Gerdes.
Pelican Publishing Co., 2017. ISBN: 9781455622634. 192 pages.
One of the inadvertent legacies of Hurricane Katrina was to give the 9th Ward of New Orleans a certain cultural cache in the national imagination. Prior to the storm, most people had never heard of the neighborhood and it was certainly not on the city’s 10-12 million annual visitors’ list of things to see. But because of the extensive news coverage following the flood, the 9th Ward seems to be on everyone’s radar.
This newfound attention has been a mixed bag. Some residents lament the loss of relative anonymity and the peace and tranquility that accompanied it. Others complain the neighborhood has been exploited; for example, the City Council has passed an ordinance forbidding tour buses from crossing the Industrial Canal. On the other hand, all the attention has yielded some positive results, not the least of which are the eco-friendly homes built by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation and other rebuilding efforts.
For good or ill, people, especially locals, are nally appreciating how fascinating and culturally significant the 9th Ward is and has been. This is the subject of Caroline Gerdes’ An Oral History of the New Orleans Ninth Ward. This book grew out of a National Geographic Expeditions Council Young Explorers Grant.
Based on interviews with 9th Ward residents, Gerdes weaves together a colorful quilt of living memory and explores the neighborhood’s shifting demographics, musical contributions to the city, racial politics, and religious heritage.
A specialist in Ninth Ward history and a New Orleans native, Caroline Gerdes is a freelance journalist who frequently publishes in the Huffington Post and other national platforms. The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA) and the New Orleans Times-Picayune have interviewed her as a regional oral historian, and she is also a Women’s Media Center SheSource expert.