Hurricane Katrina forever changed the face of one of the country’s major cities and reshaped a coastline. This academic year, several TVCC academic departments have joined up to examine in detail the culture of New Orleans and the rebirth of the destroyed city.
The book 1 Dead in Attic is a collection of stories by New Orleans’ The Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose recounting the first harrowing year and a half of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The work freeze-frames New Orleans caught between an old era and a new during its most desperate time as it struggles out of the floodwaters and wills itself back to life.
The book has become the selected reading for this year’s Read Through The Valley program. The program, sponsored by Academic Education, was established in 2009. It was initially sponsored by the local chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society.
“We experimented with several books and found that one book, campuswide, was the best method,” said Barbara Parr, who serves on the organization committee for the Read Through the Valley program.
Last semester the Read Through the Valley program sponsored several events surrounding the book 1 Dead in Attic and the culture of New Orleans. Those events included a variety of speaking events and film presentations. Even the college’s annual student art show included the New Orleans theme.
“Our events have been beyond my expectations,” said Parr. “We’ve seen everything from hurricane information to disaster preparedness, to the voices and music of New Orleans. What a terrific team of instructors, student workers, Aramark's cuisine specialists and local animal shelters have provided their time and knowledge to educate us in what it means to respond.”
The book was chosen for many reasons, said members of the program committee, including its regional significance and how neighboring states and communities responded to the needs of the evacuees of New Orleans. Thousands of New Orleans evacuees found a temporary home in Henderson County and other areas of East Texas during the weeks following the storm.
The Read Through the Valley events are continuing into the spring. One event has already taken place. The committee will host five more events this semester:
Feb. 21 – Mardi Gras Fun and Foods – Audrey Hawkins, director of school relations, will host festivities in the Cafeteria Conference Room from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The event will include king cake, prizes for the best costumes, food tastings, and Dixieland music.
March 21 – Psychology Instructor Chip Chilton will present Disaster and Mental Health. His speech will take place in the Learning Resource Center classroom from 1:40-2:30 p.m.
April 12 – Deidre Jones, journalism instructor, will facilitate a discussion around the film “Hurricane in the Bayou – How Katrina got into New Orleans.” The film presentation and discussion will be from 1:40-3 p.m. in the LRC Classroom.
April 24 – Why New Orleans Matters and Other Ideas for Discussion will take place from noon-1:30 p.m. in the Cafeteria Conference Room. Panelists will include Hawkins, Jones, Director of Bands Dr. Milton Hudson and Al Mariani from Aramark.
April 25 – The Drama Department will present a performance of 1 Dead in Attic in the auditorium at 11:15 a.m.
The Read Through The Valley program also includes a sponsored a book club. The book 1 Dead in Attic was read last semester and is currently being read this spring by the book club. The book can be checked out out through the TVCC library.
Although the program began as the book project, said program organizers, the sponsorship of the Academic Education Department and the continued encouragement of Dr. Jeremy McMillen – who oversees Academic Education – have elevated the program to a new level. The formal program committee is comprised of Dr. Marianne Leeper, Kelly Driskell, Wendy Mays, Bill Monds, Lori Gorden, Parr, and Gary White.
A new book has been chosen for the fall semester and the committee is currently planning events to highlight the new book’s theme.