Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Guest post by Alexandrea Weis, author of To My Senses

I want to welcome Alexandrea Weis, author of To My Senses (which I reviewed earlier this month), to Diary of an Eccentric to talk about her upcoming book Recovery and her experiences as a resident of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Alexandrea, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for me and my readers!

In writing "Recovery," the sequel to my first book "To My Senses," I incorporated a great deal of my experiences with the aftermath of Katrina into the novel. It was not a cathartic event but writing this novel did help me to redefine what the concept of recovery meant to me.

I had lived in Lakeview about a half a mile from the now infamous seventeenth street canal. When we were finally allowed back into the city six weeks after the storm, the devastation that greeted me would have made even Irwin Allen cry. My house had been lifted off its foundation and inundated with twelve feet of black water and debris. In an instant, so many happy memories had been reduced to an unsalvageable pile of trash. But worst of all for me, from the grass to the beautiful gardens that had graced this neighborhood, everything that had once been green and filled with life was brown and dead. It was as if the devil himself had blown his putrid breath over our city and killed every living thing in his path. People always used the term come hell or high water; well after Katrina I learned, first comes the high water and then comes the hell.

Gone were the places of my past, the houses I had known and the people I had associated with. It was one thing to grieve the loss of a loved one, but how do you grieve the loss of your city? The street where you had stood to watch Mardi Gras parades, the corner grocery that had always smelled of fresh French bread and spicy boiled shrimp, the restaurant that had served your favorite gumbo, the church where you had prayed for happiness, the home where you had gathered for the holidays, the neighborhood where you had grown up but had never left behind. How do you begin to cope with the loss of everything that up until that moment had been part of you, completed you? In New Orleans it was always said we are where we live, but who are we when we cannot live there anymore? Displaced across the face of the United States were those that had so dearly loved their little bastion of paradise eight feet below sea level. We all knew we were crazy to live there, but insanity tends to breed comfort in many ways. If you're crazy and you know it at least you don't have to worry about being crazy anymore.

But how does one describe to an outsider what we went through those first months after the storm? New Orleans had been upended with "the new normal" taking over what FEMA had left behind. Everyday rumors would sweep the city or the outlying parishes about when the promised billions would arrive while over our airways politicians and urban miscreants fought over how to divvy up the goods. Beneath the streets, water mains continually broke making bathing an infrequent occurrence. Electricity came and went leaving many to rely on their generators. Cell phones didn’t work and landlines became the last vestiges of communication linking us to the outside world. Crime took over, making looting, shooting and anarchy a familiar pastime for the citizens of our city while the circling scavengers from the world’s media avidly documented each labored breathe of our struggles. We were hurt, bleeding, in pain and lost. Where in the hell was superman when you needed him?

But to our rescue people came from churches, schools, clubs, fraternities and Fortune Five Hundred companies. They pulled up stakes and headed south to provide comfort and let us know that we were not alone. All those altruists will never know what their actions meant to us. We were and still are eternally grateful to all who packed up their lives to bring us food, water and a lot of encouragement.

Recovery is a long process from which I have yet to emerge. But like other survivors in our rebuilding city, I am picking up the pieces of my past and with a lot of bleach, a little super glue, and a tower of patience, I am moving on. I have learned that recovery means letting go of what I have lost and facing the uncertainty of tomorrow by appreciating what I hold in my hands today. From every tragedy there is recovery and in every recovery a hopeful new beginning.

"Recovery" is due out later this year.


JUST A REMINDER: You still have a few more days to enter to win one of 5 copies of To My Senses by Alexandrea Weis. The giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, February 8. Click here to enter.


Serena said...

What a fantastic guest post, Alexandrea. I'm happy to hear about all the altruists who helped and how your struggles have shaped your writing.

I would love to be entered to win To My Senses, and I have to say that her new book sounds like a must read as well. I would love to get my hands on a copy of that book as well.

Anyways, you have my digits and emails, so you can contact me if I Win.

Sandy Nawrot said...

That was very touching...thank you for allowing us to peek inside the mind of Ms. Weis! Although my hurricane experience cannot be compared to that of Katrina, in central Florida we took direct hits, with winds over 100mph, from three hurricanes in 2004. Words cannot describe the utter helplessness and dismay at the devestation being wreaked on your property, while you sit and listen to it happening. It took months to recover. Every time I see that big orange swirl on the weather map, I pray, really hard, for whoever its headed for.

Anonymous said...

Great guest post. I cannot imagine what the people of New Orleans went through, even though we witnessed so much of it on TV.

Serena said...

ok, Anna you've been tagged!

Jeannie said...

I'm very happy to see that Hurricane Katrina is not being swept under the rug. Thank you, Ms. Weis, for sharing your story, and thanks, Anna, for the fabulous post.

Anna said...

Serena: Glad you enjoyed the post. I'll shout through the cubicle wall if you win. LOL

Sandy: I remember a few hurricanes growing up, and they were pretty scary living in a mobile home and all. (Let's not discuss my father's resistance to evacuation!) But I have no idea what it's like to go through something like Katrina or any storm so destructive.

Bermudaonion: My thoughts exactly!

Serena: Okay, I'll check it out. Thanks!

Jeannie: You're welcome!

Anonymous said...

Alexandrea, fantastic post! I hope everyone gets the opportunity to read TO MY SENSES. It was a fantastic book!

Anna said...

J. Kaye: Thanks for stopping by. You were the one who told me Alexandrea's book was a great read. Thanks!

avisannschild said...

Great post! I'm sorry I didn't get my act together soon enough to enter your giveaway! (I'm behind on my blog reading, as usual.)

Anna said...

avisannschild: It's so easy to fall behind in blog reading. This is the first time since Thanksgiving that I've been caught up. Sorry you missed the giveaway. :(

avisannschild said...

Anna, it's a relief to know I'm not the only one!