cover image Katrina: A History, 1915–2015

Katrina: A History, 1915–2015

Andy Horowitz. Harvard Univ, $35 (282p) ISBN 978-0-674-97171-4

Tulane University history professor Horowitz debuts with a vivid and persuasive chronicle of the “causes and consequences” of Hurricane Katrina. Beginning with a 1915 report by New Orleans’s Sewerage and Water Board that encouraged the development of flood-prone neighborhoods, Horowitz illustrates how a century’s worth of federal programs encouraged city residents, particularly low-income African-Americans, to make their homes in locations that were increasingly endangered by the dredging of Louisiana’s marshlands to build infrastructure for the shipping and oil industries. Drawing upon an impressive array of sources, including public works records and oral histories, Horowitz argues that a combination of environmental challenges, structural racism, and governmental misjudgment resulted in a massive loss of life during the August 2005 storm. In its aftermath, these same factors generated an ethos of “creative destruction,” which interpreted the hurricane as an opportunity to remake New Orleans into a smaller, wealthier, and whiter city. Ending on a note of mingled optimism and worry, Horowitz describes the deep love that New Orleanians have for their home and the many problems the city continues to struggle with. Even readers who have never visited the Crescent City will be moved by this incisive account. (June)