Tag Archives: New Orleans

Book Gems in New Orleans, LA for the Traveling Bibliophile

24 Aug

I am back from the Big Easy! Yes, that in itself is an accomplishment.

I had very little free time in the busy schedule for this conference so I decided to go it alone on the first full day! I picked the three closest shops and headed out.

First on the agenda was Crescent City Books and Prints. I wasn’t aware Crescent City was a nickname for New Orleans before arriving but upon hearing it, it makes a ton of sense. Take a look at a map of the city and see the way the river cuts through it! I’ll be honest and say this was my least favorite of the book stores I visited. There were some neat older books and having the paintings and prints was a cool feature, but I wasn’t very impressed with the book collection. Most of the fiction was older titles which said to me the store doesn’t get a lot of new stuff. The floor plan wasn’t very big, either. It did have this cool wall which looks like it’s from a plane, so there’s that.

I grabbed some lunch and beer at a local brewery before heading to the store I was most excited about. Just the name alone had me excited. Are you ready for this?

If you didn’t guess from the name, let me explain. This bookstore is composed of the two rooms where William Faulkner lived from 1923-1924 and where he wrote his book Soldier’s Pay. I walked past the street it’s on and had to backtrack. It’s literally tucked right next to the cathedral just off Jackson Square. And, this is the best part, the street is called Pirate’s Ally! How great is that?

What’s even better is the adorable bookstore inside. The collection, appropriately, comprised a lot of classics and collector’s editions of Faulkner’s books. There was also a great collection of new and used fiction and I have to say I was very tempted by some of the selections! I decided, in the end, to go with Soldier’s Pay because it seemed appropriate. I did spend a lot of time poking around, though. Look how cute these pictures are!

After stopping for some VERY NECESSARY beignets at Cafe du Monde, I hit up one last store to round out my day. (Side note, Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours and it’s a lot less crowded at 2 AM.)

Beckham’s Bookshop was another used bookstore but I have to say I much preferred this one. The space had wide shelves and high ceilings. There was even a ladder on the walls but since I was the only person in the store, I restrained myself from swinging around like Belle. I’m mad at myself for not taking a picture. The one included here is from the second floor, the non-fiction and foreign language books. I bought myself a copy of Cuando era puertorriquena by Esmeralda Santiago. I’m now stocked and ready to go with Spanish reading books for a few years!

I liked this store more because of the selection. There were newer titles and some good old ones as well. I was deciding between a few books when I walked upstairs and found Santiago’s book. The gentleman running the store was very nice and helpful when a woman came in looking for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She said she had a few chapters left in #2 and didn’t want to wait to read the next one. The gentleman gave her a list of all the bookstores within walking distance. How great is that?!

Overall, it was a great visit to New Orleans and a great afternoon of book shopping. I’m traveling for work next month but I don’t think I’ll have time for book shopping. We shall see.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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On Vacation Again!

17 Aug

I’m happy to say I’m on vacation again! I’ll be back next week but I left Tuesday night so I’m skipping today’s post. I’ll be exploring the streets of New Orleans!

If you’re from New Orleans, let me know some local places to hit up. I’ll be at a conference for most of this trip but I’ll try to sneak away. I plan to hit up at least one bookstore, too. Look forward to that.

Hello from the Big Easy and I’ll see you all next week.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

24 Mar

Not surprisingly, my book club’s discussion of ‘Zeitoun’ was very tinged y the controversy surrounding the main subject and his family. It was good to talk about it with some other people but this was a delicate discussion to have so I didn’t take notes on all things that were said in an effort to keep this blog free from as much political discussion as possible. I apologize that this is short.A few people thought that Zeitoun’s story seemed a little unreal because of how kind he was portrayed and how extreme his treatment in the jail was. We liked that he cared for the dogs and the other people around him but in light of the news, we’re wondering if it’s true. The treatment he received in the Greyhound jail seemed very extreme and made us think about those detained at Guantanamo Bay. Is what they experienced normal of those held there? Why would the government or police think it was okay to treat people who were accused of looting the same as those accused of terroristic plots?

A few people thought that Zeitoun’s story seemed a little unreal because of how kind he was portrayed and how extreme his treatment in the jail was. We liked that he cared for the dogs and the other people around him but in light of the news, we’re wondering if it’s true. The treatment he received in the Greyhound jail seemed very extreme and made us think about those detained at Guantanamo Bay. Is what they experienced normal of those held there? Why would the government or police think it was okay to treat people who were accused of looting the same as those accused of terroristic plots?There were so many factors that made Katrina the disaster it was. A huge part of it was the levees breaking. Because the levees were known not to be strong enough to support the amount of water that a hurricane the size of Katrina could cause, was it a manmade disaster? There’s no arguing that nature took its turn first, but what about the aftermath? We argued that the work should have been

There were so many factors that made Katrina the disaster it was. A huge part of it was the levees breaking. Because the levees were known not to be strong enough to support the amount of water that a hurricane the size of Katrina could cause, was it a manmade disaster? There’s no arguing that nature took its turn first, but what about the aftermath? We argued that the work should have been done, but the $5 million price tag on the work was a deterrent that in hindsight seems cheap but at the time was too big to surmount. Any trees and hills that had been removed or flattened for city expansion could have stopped the erosion and expansion of the levee water, but it had been removed for city development. Sometimes nature has her own insurance policies that humans remove.The anecdotes about how FEMA and other government bodies seemed to provide no solid assistance were so frustrating. The novel seemed to tell us that the possibility of terrorism was more of a concern than helping those who were in need and could have benefited from public assistance. There was an impression that assistance was more

The anecdotes about how FEMA and other government bodies seemed to provide no solid assistance were so frustrating. The novel seemed to tell us that the possibility of terrorism was more of a concern than helping those who were in need and could have benefited from public assistance. There was an impression that assistance was more effective in other regions touched by the disaster than it was in New Orleans. Perhaps New Orleans was a problem so hard no one wanted to tackle it.We felt there were a lot of questions about Zeitoun’s co-captives that should have been raised. Why were Nassar and Todd held for so much longer than Zeitoun? If they’d

We felt there were a lot of questions about Zeitoun’s co-captives that should have been raised. Why were Nassar and Todd held for so much longer than Zeitoun? If they’d been brought in on similar charges, why were they not released at the same time Zeitoun got out? Why didn’t Zeitoun advocate for his friends? We can understand not sticking up for the unknown Ronnie, but Todd was a long-time border and Nassar a friend. Why would they be left for five and six months in conditions that Zeitoun knew were inhumane? It seemed fishy.Zeitoun was a very self-dependent person. It didn’t surprise us that he didn’t leave New Orleans with his livelihood staying in the city. He wanted to be around the things that kept him dependent. He had grown up in his oldest brother’s shadow and wanted to be a hero the way Mohammed was a hero to their small town in Syria.

Zeitoun was a very self-dependent person. It didn’t surprise us that he didn’t leave New Orleans with his livelihood staying in the city. He wanted to be around the things that kept him dependent. He had grown up in his oldest brother’s shadow and wanted to be a hero the way Mohammed was a hero to their small town in Syria.Now we turn to the part of the discussion that was tinged with the recent news. When we thought about it, Kathy’s voice seemed to be withheld. It seemed more like Zeitoun speaking through her than a separate and distinct voice. We also noticed a few things that stuck out in light of the news. She seemed to jump to the conclusion that her husband had died very quickly. When he’s stuck in an area where there are no working phones and conditions are changing by the minute, you have to expect that there might not be any news for days or weeks at a time. She seemed to think he was dead quickly. Was it wishful thinking? Her memory loss might have other origins than PTSD in light of the trial. If he wasn’t afraid to beat her with a tire iron in public, what kind of head trauma might she have suffered behind closed doors? It might be memories of Katrina or maybe memories of being hit by her husband.

Now we turn to the part of the discussion that was tinged with the recent news. When we thought about it, Kathy’s voice seemed to be withheld. It seemed more like Zeitoun speaking through her than a separate and distinct voice. We also noticed a few things that stuck out in light of the news. She seemed to jump to the conclusion that her husband had died very quickly. When he’s stuck in an area where there are no working phones and conditions are changing by the minute, you have to expect that there might not be any news for days or weeks at a time. She seemed to think he was dead quickly. Was it wishful thinking? Her memory loss might have other origins than PTSD in light of the trial. If he wasn’t afraid to beat her with a tire iron in public, what kind of head trauma might she have suffered behind closed doors? It might be memories of Katrina or maybe memories of being hit by her husband.I was personally upset that Kathy’s family couldn’t accept her religion and her conversion. She

I was personally upset that Kathy’s family couldn’t accept her religion and her conversion. She chose to become a Muslim before she even met Zeitoun so their insistence that her hijab was something Abdulrahman made her do was ridiculous to me. Their comments that she could take it off because ‘he wasn’t there’ make me wonder if they saw it as an oppression of her religion or her husband and if they could draw a difference between the two. I also wonder if they knew about the abuse and correlated Islam and spousal abuse, making it harder to accept their daughter in a hijab. Either way, it upset me that they didn’t love everything about her, even the parts that were different from themselves.

We wondered why Kathy would stay quiet about being beaten. Being thrust into the public spotlight would give her the opportunity to stick up for herself and get help, but she remained silent. There was some debate among us about how Eggers might have conducted his relationship with the Zeitouns. Did he know about the abuse and take it out of his book? Did the Zeitouns insist it was removed when they read his drafts? It seems that he gave them a lot of control over the content and we wondered how much was removed by the Zeitouns, how much was removed by Eggers, and how much was never written in the first place.

One member said, “I feel like someone told me there wasn’t a Santa Clause’ when we told her the news. It’s very jarring to hear about a character who was portrayed in such a good light. If the part of the book about his suffering in prison is true, how do we feel about it? Is it karma that he suffered there if he was a wife beater? Did he deserve it? Let me know what you think

This was a very controversal novel and made for a good discussion, but not of the content in the book. I enjoyed the book a lot but I’m not sure that this is the best book for book clubs to discussion in light of the news that came out after it’s acclaim. Great choice for our edgy book club, but maybe not for a more traditional group.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (5/5)

5 Mar

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it and I was blown away. Eggers has done this to me twice now and I expect nothing less from any of his future books that I read. I didn’t know anything about Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family. I hadn’t heard about the controversy surrounding him. (side note: as of writing this, I haven’t looked it up yet. I’ll look it up and give you all a LIVE reaction to it. Get excited.) I visited New Orleans in February 2015, about six months after Katrina so I have my own feelings about the tragedy and the city but I hadn’t heard about a lot of the things this book covered. It was a great read.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Summary from Goodreads:

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.

I was not ready for this book. I try not to look too much into books before reading them if I can help it; I like a surprise. So I knew nothing about this book besides what I knew about the author from reading What Is the What? and A Hologram for the King. I knew it was about Katrina. Other than that, I was ignorant. Wow. I’m always surprised by a well-written non-fiction story and this was no exception. I haven’t done this in a while, but I highly recommend this book.

Kathy and Abdulraham were very well written. I liked the back-and-forth between their points of view and how Eggers used this to tell a story. I liked both of them as they were portrayed in the book. Kathy and Abdulrahman both had to face society’s view of them in different ways and tried to remain strong in the face of it which I thought was admirable.

Kathy was my favorite of the two. I liked her story and journey to Islam. I thought it was very brave of her to make such a drastic change in her life and I’m glad it gave her peace. I thought her relationship with Yuko was beautiful and it made me want a friend as close to me as Kathy was to her friend.

The reason I went to New Orleans in February of 2006 was because a friend of mine lived down there and invited me to spend my mid-Winter break with is family. They had been evacuated from the Tulane Hospital complex in the aftermath and had been re-located to New York for a few months where they lived with family. The family returned around the new year to see the damage to their house and the restoration that would be needed. In the mean time, they were living in an apartment close to down-town.

Having seen my friend’s house and heard his story, this book touched me in several ways. I couldn’t help thinking of my friend and the state of his house when we visited. There was a water line at my shoulder level and all of their possessions were piled in the hallway of the second floor of their house. Thinking of someone, like Zeitoun, living on that second floor and being trapped in the house is easy for  me to imagine and frightening. I’ve seen the damage and have an idea of the destruction that New Orleans residents faced, but I can’t imagine living through it.

I liked the stories of Zeitoun in his canoe. I thought the things he did were very admirable and maybe it was God’s will that he stay and help those he was able to assist. In light of what was going on with the military personnel around him, it’s a good thing he could do the good he did from his silent canoe.

I thought the book took a really serious turn in the second half. More than the story, the tone seemed to become very cynical and scathing as well. It seems appropriate, but was a little jarring. I understand that the characters were upset about what was going on and the author is outraged at the happenings, but as a reader it took me out of the story a little bit.

Abdulrahman and Kathy have a story of persistence and perseverance. They faced a lot of hardships from numerous fronts and still remained hopeful. They kept it together for their kids and tried to find a positive way out of the tragedies that piled up against them. It’s a story of strong wills.

Ok, as promised, I’m going to go look up the controversy around this book for a second and give you all my initial and unfiltered reaction.

Wow. If you want to learn what I just did, you can watch this video, and read both of these two articles. This is really hard to believe. The two seemed to have such a loving relationship in the book so hearing that it turned abusive and violent after the story is hard to hear. It seems to fit with the PTSD Kathy suffered through toward the end. Perhaps Abdulrahman’s change of behavior is due to something similar. He seemed oddly unaffected to me in the later parts of the book. I hope that Kathy is able to maintain her safety and that of her children with the threats placed upon her by her ex-husband.

Dave Eggers Image via Amazon.com

Dave Eggers
Image via Amazon.com

Dave Eggers is not in an interesting situation. He’s painted Zeitoun as a hero in a very well-received and publicized novel. Where does he go from here? Does he renounce his hero or defend him despite the evidence? I think Eggers silence is probably for the best. This is a quandary fiction authors can thankfully avoid!

Writer’s Takeaway: I love a well-written non-fiction and I think Eggers does that beautifully here. Using dialogue, even if it’s not 100% accurate, helps an account greatly. I liked the pictures that were woven in and the emails for Ahmed. Anything that makes the story seem less like a history textbook and more like a storyteller talking is great. I’m still in awe of Eggers abilities as a writer. I will be for a long time to come.

Great book and one I highly recommend. Five out of five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
“Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers | Melody and Words