cover image The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans

The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans

Ned Sublette, . . Lawrence Hill, $27.95 (452pp) ISBN 978-1-55652-824-8

Musician, musicologist and longtime New York resident, Sublette revisits his Southern roots and recounts a 2004–2005 pre-Katrina research sojourn in New Orleans in this blunt, eloquently humane and musically astute memoir—a worthy companion to his acclaimed The World That Made New Orleans , a music-laden cultural history of the city to 1819. Sublette delves into some quintessential dynamics of modern American popular culture—including racism and poverty as well as restive imagination and invention—through the prism of his childhood in virulently segregated, early rock 'n' rolling Natchitoches, La., and the fraught but idiosyncratic culture he finds in pre-flood New Orleans. If discussions of Elvis, early rock 'n' roll and hip-hop millionaires straight out of New Orleans's projects inevitably rehearse familiar narratives, Sublette carefully marks them out as part of a larger personal and social landscape. Sublette's sensitivity to the precariousness of a system that collapsed completely after he returned to New York is more than mere hindsight; his worldview dovetails movingly with his turbulent and alluring subject and its dogged rebirth. (Sept.)