cover image Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White

Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White

Tom Sancton, . . Other Press, $24.95 (305pp) ISBN 978-1-59051-243-2

In this beguiling coming-of-age memoir, a former Time Paris bureau chief takes a heartfelt look at his unusual Crescent City childhood during the 1950s and '60s. At 13, the author, son of a liberal white journalist-turned-novelist and a Mississippi debutante, begins clarinet lessons, learning to play traditional New Orleans jazz from veteran black musicians who were the heart of Preservation Hall in the famous French Quarter and the soul of the local black community. Sancton loves the music, but at the same time lives the life of a middle-class white teen, expected to share the prejudices and enthusiasms of his peers. Caught between disparate social worlds and racial realities, he, "[l]ike Clark Kent..., had a double identity." This enduring portrait of a particular side of New Orleans—which Sancton (Death of a Princess ) notes "had mostly faded into history long before Katrina struck"—vividly captures the author's complicated relationships with his father, his hometown and the wonderful characters drawn to it. Sketches pay homage to clarinetist George Lewis, banjoist Creole George Guesnon and others in prose that can emotionally mimic the sound of a horn and summon the taste of red beans and rice. Photos. Author tour. (June)

Look for an upcoming Q&A with Tom Sancton.—Ed.