Report from Louisiana: a Book Roundup

Posted: January 24, 2022 by Pat Austin in Uncategorized
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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Life has been busy, y’all. So busy I slap forgot to put up my post last week. It’s a wonder Pete let’s me hang around. One thing about being retired is that I lose all track of time and I never know what day it is. On top of that, I started a part-time job at my church working Tuesday through Thursday so Tuesdays feel like Mondays and Thursdays feel like Fridays and I don’t know which end is up lately.

One thing I have been doing on my off time is reading a lot. I’ve always been an avid reader and I read whenever I get a chance; I prefer actual books, but I do have a Kindle and I read some things on that. I’m on NetGalley and preview books there prior to their publication for purposes of review and so by necessity those are on Kindle. Books that I don’t plan to keep on my shelves forever are also often read on Kindle. I can get my library books there too. Books I plan to keep, usually nonfiction or collector copies of fiction, are obviously real, paper books.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my most recent reading list with you. It is heavy on Louisiana thematically, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

For Christmas, I bought for myself a copy of Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin. When this beautiful cookbook came out last year, I am embarrassed to say that I dismissed it as yet another chef hawking yet another Cajun cookbook with overblown and impossibly stuffy recipes fluffed out with pretty pictures. I could not have been more wrong. Martin’s photographs of swamps, bayous, fish, crabs, shrimp, and landscapes are stunning, but her recipes are from her family and from her childhood on the bayou in the southernmost parishes of Louisiana. She writes extensively about the vanishing marsh, sustainability, and the history of her Cajun people. The book is a gastronomical feast for the eyes and belly. I have thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook that is really so much more than a cookbook.

Speaking of the vanishing marshland, the nonfiction Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell is part history, part travelogue, and totally entertaining. Tidwell is interested in the vanishing Louisiana coast; as he travels down the bayou on one shrimp boat or another and talks to the locals, he is stunned to see how much land loss Louisiana has suffered in just one man’s lifetime. The rapid rate of this land loss is devastation. The book was originally published in 2003 and holds up still. Beautifully written, Tidwell takes you along the bayous and into the homes and around the dinner tables of the Cajuns that he meets. I read this book slower than I needed to because I did not want it to end.

Moving north from Cajun country, the next book I want to share with you is Shreveport Martyrs of 1873 by the Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum, JCL. This book tells the story of the 1873 yellow fever epidemic right here in Shreveport that wiped out at least a quarter of the population. The epidemic is the stuff of legends here, and tours of the historic Oakland Cemetery on the edge of downtown include a pass by the Yellow Fever Mound – the mass graves of the victims. Sometimes new dirt has to be brought in and put on the mound as sometimes pieces of fabric or bone might work their way to the surface. During this epidemic, there was obvious panic and concern as the affluent tried to protect their families by sending them away to stay elsewhere. Five missionary priests stayed behind, stayed with the sick, to minister to them, sacrificing their own lives to the fever. It’s quite a story and well researched.

And so, that’s one little bit that has been keeping me busy! My links are Amazon affiliate links, which I’m duty bound to disclose, but it doesn’t matter where you buy your books! These are good ones.

What are YOU reading?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

  1. Pod Hamp says:

    I am reading the Harvard Classics on my Kindle. I finished His Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, and have started The Journal of John Woolman. Good reading for the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.

    By the way, do your comments work? Nothing shows up on the site, and nothing I have written in the last few weeks show up either. Am I wasting my time writing these?