Read and Spin

Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard’s new album, Choices, due for release Aug. 18, juxtaposes his last album, A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), with music stemming from survival rather than destruction.

The album was recorded in the 120-year-old building that now houses the Patrick F. Taylor Library at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The site choice, Blanchard has said, was inspired by the fact that just like New Orleans the building is a survivor. As expected, the album exemplifies Blanchard’s skillful trumpeting. Spoken word pieces by Dr. Cornel West add an interesting sound element.
As a note, listen for Blanchard’s musical score in the new Disney film The Princess and the Frog which is set in New Orleans and due out this fall.

Humor l Tsumommy! Riding the Wave of Motherhood by Hammond resident Brenna Barzenick is an Erma Bombeck-like collection of essays about family life. Barzenick shares anecdotes about family road trips, babies, hygiene, holidays and all the other goodies that make being a mommy so fun. The writing is funny and accessible, but the chapters could have benefitted from some added length.

Biography l Journalist Dan Baum’s book Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans chronicles the struggles, triumphs and milestones of nine New Orleanians, from Hurricane Betsy in 1965 through Hurricane Katrina and after. Through the eyes of real-life characters, Baum examines New Orleans’ legacy of poverty, racism and violence, but also emphasizes the city’s simultaneous reverence for culture, music and family. Baum provides an apt portrayal of why New Orleans’ people, not geography, make the city what it is.

Fiction l A Savage Wisdom by Southeastern Louisiana University professor Norman German is an “imaginative reconstruction” of the life of Toni Jo Henry, aka Annie Beatrice McQuiston, the only female felon ever executed in Louisiana to date.

Read with a grain of salt. German says that to create reader sympathy, “I made [Toni Jo] an ingénue. By doing that, I was able to create the novel as a study in deception … The facts of Toni Jo’s real life – especially her being a prostitute and drug addict by age 14 – didn’t leave much room for reader sympathy.”

As a study in deception, and the consequences thereof, this bizarre tale certainly succeeds.

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