Download PDF Sustaining New Orleans: Literature, Local Memory, and the Fate of a City

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Barbara Eckstein told CA: "I write in order to find answers to the question, What social work does literature do? I most specifically want to know how it participates in the production of particular local places. Despite its broad circulation, on the local scene how is it a story among local stories?


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Does it contribute to or inhibit efforts to create a sustainable place, I wonder. Activist nuns in New Orleans have sparked my scholarly agenda.

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Henri Lefebvre's theories of how spaces get produced have enabled my thinking about story and place. Born on December 12, , to Lawrence C. Osbey and Lois Hamilton Osbey, Brenda spent her childhood in a predominantly black section of the Seventh Ward and had always had a passion for writing.

While both of her parents had careers unrelated to the literary world, they had always had an interest in literature and instilled that interest in their daughter. Osbey claims that by junior high school she knew that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Osbey has published various works based on Creole life in New Orleans, but her most revered work in the literary world is her collection of poems titled All Saints, which won the American Book Award.

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The poems in All Saints are important to the understanding of the peculiar culture that New Orleans has had for many years. Osbey creates a world in which the mysticism of ancient African hoodoo is mixed with the modern conception of jazz and nightlife. The community has passed it along through a circle of life process that perpetuates a way of life appearing to remain timeless, which is why it is so highly regarded.

An interesting dynamic that Osbey explores in her poetry is the struggle of balancing modern religion with long-standing tradition in New Orleans as the practice of African hoodoo intersects with the practice of Catholicism. The juxtaposition of the iron wrought in shapes of Hoodoo saints and their little Catholic cousins shows the importance of both the hoodoo and the Catholicism in the culture of the city.

The city of New Orleans is built around tradition, and the practice of African hoodoo has been incorporated into the Catholic religion for the people — the bond is natural for them. Carrying around silver coins, or burning incense, or sprinkling cinnamon over the back door are all hoodoo practices, but they are paired with the Catholic traditions of attending a wake and lighting votive candles.

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By the end of the poem the young girl has experience with both religious practices and the girl experiences both religious practices and goes on to uphold the dual New Orleans tradition of honoring the memory of the dead. The Hail Mary prayer is shown on the left side of the page, while a hoodoo chant interrupts the flow of the lines and lists down the right side of the page showing how the two can be distinguished but never fully separated in this culture. As Osbey says:. New Orleans religion recognizes a somewhat distant but single deity. The few Catholic saints that have been absorbed into the religion function both in their own right and as the servants of the Ancestors.

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They form neither the core of our belief, nor the object of anything that might be called worship. The book was not delivered in good condition. Edges were torn. But the content is great.

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