Thursday, November 26, 2009
Telling the Story of New Orleans
Which would you rather read – a statistical report full of charts and graphs – or a novel with interesting characters? For most of us, that’s not a difficult decision. We’re interested in people, what they do and how they think.
In fact, non-profits have learned that people will donate more money if we see one individual in need rather than facts about the thousands of people who are dying from disease or hunger.
Dan Baum, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, found a way to bridge the gap between fact and fiction. In order to write Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans, Baum held in-depth interviews with nine residents of New Orleans – from a Mardi Gras King to a police officer to a transsexual barkeeper to a successful establishment lawyer. The people come to life on the page, and it’s hard to believe it’s not a work of fiction.
Another character is a strong but unseen presence on every page – the City of New Orleans. We listen in on union discussions around integration. We watch teachers and principals struggling to keep the poor kids off the street. We dance in the Mardi Gras parades – in the poor areas as well as on St. Charles Avenue.
Dan Baum contends that New Orleans is like no other city in North America. Nine Lives shares his love and respect for its residents and for their courage in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and in trying to escape poverty or to help their neighbours.
For more ideas:
Another great book about New Orleans is The House on First Street by Julia Read.
The Interviewer: Echoing Stakeholder’s Voices explores ways that municipalities and organizations can document and evaluate their work through interviewing key stakeholders and synthesizing the information.