NONFICTION: An American woman traveling for love and bliss in Belize is taken hostage by a mentally unstable man posing as a cab driver. In The Jaguar Man by Lara Naughton, readers come to understand Naughton’s terror and incredible will to survive her kidnapping – where compassion is her only hope. She orchestrates the narrative to show how she processes her trauma, following the “angry driver,” weaving in a telling of a person’s struggle with mental illness, alcoholism and overwhelming guilt. A revealing read drawing the distinction of the before versus after reality victims of assault face, and the question one in six women come to ask themselves in the U.S., “Why didn’t I report him?” An honest account of a trauma victim’s emotional and existential crisis, Naughton supplies hope and compassion amongst an all-too-common and vastly un-talked-about issue. Naughten is director of Compassion NOLA and the creative writing chairwoman at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
AMERICANA: From start to finish The Navigator, available March 10, is everything and more you’ve been waiting for from New Orleans’ own Hurray for the Riff Raff. Since their appearance on “Treme” in 2011, the band has been recognized worldwide by audiences and critics alike as having an incredible authentic Southern sound and lyrical composition, making quite a name for themselves touring the country, Europe and beyond. The Navigator is a flavorful mix of Americana and soft country woven together between tracks. After setting the stage with their single drop “Riccan Beach,” the band’s lead singer Alynda Segarra has pointed to the sociopolitical lyrics and observations of gentrification and culture wars. At a time of national division and uncertainty, The Navigator may be regarded as a revolutionary creation protesting white-washing and fascism with lyrics such as, “First they stole our language, then they stole our names. Then they stole the things that brought us fame … I’ll keep fighting ’’til the end.” Hurray for the Riff Raff’s next scheduled appearance in New Orleans is May 5, 2017, at the Civic Theater.
SHORT FICTION: Signals: New and Selected Stories by Tim Gautreaux offers a glimpse into the seemingly simple lives of (mostly) backcountry Louisiana residents and their day-to-day challenes. Gautreaux’s collections of short stories are honest – often brutally so. His telling of ordinary people who are confined by their environment while they encounter the good, the bad, the unlucky and the unplanned intrigued me. All of the stories have incorporated Gateaux’s dark humor, whether saturated in it, or in subtle undertones or in unforeseen ways – until it’s impossible to ignore.