August 30, 2010

After Katrina: Memoirs, mental health, more

An Upper 9th Ward resident photographed during a 2006 Emory Cares service project in New Orleans.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina left her mark on America’s Gulf Coast, the nation is pausing to look back. Emory faculty, many of whom have been involved in a wide variety of research and service efforts in the region, are still sharing their expertise to help illuminate the area’s past and improve its present and future.

When Katrina hit, former New Orleans resident Leslie Harris tried to make sense of what happened and to imagine what she had lost. The associate professor of history knew that she could bring her skills as a writer and historian to these issues. She began writing a memoir of her family’s history and the history of the city between 1965 and 2005 as a way of answering questions about race, white flight, desegregation and re-segregation. “It’s not just about riding on the same bus together or going to school together,” says Harris. “It’s also about economic resources in the city.”

In addition to her forthcoming memoir, Harris has joined with other academics to found the New Orleans Research Collaborative, to "have deeper conversations about [the city's] issues and a deeper understanding of New Orleans.” Says Harris, “It’s not a story that a lot of people know.”

Help for coping
Nadine Kaslow
, professor and vice-chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Medicine, says she’s seen tremendous resilience and psychological strength in people whose lives were touched by Katrina, despite the fact that there have been inadequate mental health resources. Kaslow, who made it her personal mission after the storm to help young, displaced psychology graduate students, is still working to spread the word on the many evidence-based health interventions to help people cope not just during a tragedy, but for the long term.

New Orleans also is a long-term focus for political scientist Michael Leo Owens, who keeps a close eye on the “NOLA Index,” issued every year since Hurricane Katrina. Owens says he sees positive developments, such as increasing population in the city and surrounding areas, and increasing job growth. But he points to the uneven progress in the city’s redevelopment and questions whether better student performance in the area’s public schools is due to actual improvements or the turnover in population. To address these issues, Owens organized "Storms of Inequality: Remembering Katrina and Rita as Political, Racial and Social Disasters" a panel discussion for the forthcoming 2010 Meeting of the American Political Science Association in early September.

VIDEO: Michael Leo Owens: What We've Learned Since Katrina

More than NOLA
For poet Natasha Trethewey, Hurricane Katrina brings to mind not New Orleans, but the place where she spent her childhood: Gulfport, Mississippi. Her new book due out Sept. 1, “Beyond Katrina: Meditations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” is her personal profile of the region and the people whose lives there were forever changed by the storm. Trethewey, Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry and professor of English, says that in giving readings around the country, she often asks audiences what they think of when they hear the words “Hurricane Katrina.” “They almost always say ‘New Orleans.’ Never do they say ‘the Mississippi Gulf Coast,’” says Trethewey. Her book testifies to her determination that the region will not be forgotten.

VIDEO: "Beyond Katrina: A Memoir by Natasha Trethewey"


File Options

  • Print Icon Print

Related Information

  • For more perspectives on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, visit Emory’s interdisciplinary digital journal  Southern Spaces.