Sunday, July 31, 2011

A.D. New Orleans after the Deluge

Title:               A.D. New Orleans after the Deluge
Category:       Graphic Novel, Nonfiction
Grade:            14+
Author:          Josh Neufeld
Publisher:       Pantheon
Place:              New York
Date:               2009
Pages:             193

A.D. tells the terrifying story of the victims of Hurricane Katrina in this graphic nonfiction work.  Neufeld chose seven different families from the white and wealthy to the poor minority to follow through their experiences during Katrina and her aftermath.  After an introduction of the seven, he opens with scenes of the storm itself, including a fairly superfluous section on Biloxi.  He follows the seven through their often frightening experiences during the storm itself and then on into the catastrophic flooding after the levee breaches, through the nightmare of the Superdome and into the reconstruction and dispersal of most of New Orleans. Some families evacuate and return home to find everything gone.  Others become rootless, wandering from place to place for several years.  Families are split up.  Babies go without food and water, while adults have no place even to use the bathroom.  Businesses flood.  Years later, both displaced and returning residents continue to rebuild. 

This graphic book mimics the feel of a newspaper in chronicling and interviewing Neufeld’s chosen seven, but also has the feel of a comic strip as it retells and highlights the perspectives of some of the many experiences residents had during the crisis.  While the original storm scenes, particularly the Biloxi ones, are somewhat confusing and the characters can be difficult to tell apart, readers will soon be able to follow the parallel narratives  through this very real and gripping “cartoon.”

Found in the adult section of the library, this book would be a gripping read for just about anyone old enough to understand it.  Though the language might raise objections over younger readers, teens will be fascinated with this unique and engrossing way of telling the Katrina victims’ stories.  Some teens may get confused among the multiple storylines or through cartoons that have difficulty conveying individual characters or significant events, but the farther one moves into this story, the easier it is to keep untangled and immerse oneself in. Several highly documented incidents such as the levee breaches and the hellish conditions of the Convention Center were portrayed in a way that was both accurate and moving; even the depositing of the President Casino onto the Holiday Inn in Biloxi was documented here. The story highlights the fear, the desperation, the courage, and sometimes the folly of both the victims and the outside help, including the government.  It also is able to demonstrate some of the redeeming qualities of humanity as total strangers offer supplies, assistance and even comic books to help New Orleans residents begin to put their lives back together again.  Though I am not generally a fan of graphic novels, I found myself completely riveted to this very true and memorable story, and teens who are not personally familiar with Katrina in the coming years will find it an eye-opening resource for understanding it.


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