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A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge - Josh Neufeld After Maus, I don’t think graphic novels need to prove they are capable of handling grave subject matter. This one tells the true and personal stories of four families who lived through Hurricane Katrina. If you’re looking for a discussion about FEMA, (Louisiana Governor) Ray Nagin, or George W. Bush, you won‘t find it here. Instead, you’ll get the story of guidance councilor Denise, and the trials she endures to find potable water for her mother and niece. It’s also about immigrants Abbas and Darnell, who ignore evacuation orders and stay behind to defend the family grocery store from looters. When rising water puts them on the store rooftop, they have to contend with mosquitoes, and an onslaught of rats looking for dry ground. Meanwhile, struggling independent publishers Leo and Michelle want to heed the evacuation orders, but between the two of them only have $100. It wouldn’t buy much gasoline- if they could find any for sale at all. Unsure of how bad the storm will get, or how it might affect mail service, they are tempted to wait a day or two for a much-anticipated check to come in the mail. Wanting to evacuate, but not having the funds? That’s something which frankly hadn’t occurred to me. Why not take the evacuation busses the city provided? Well, first of all, communication lines were compromised, and not everybody knew that busses were available, or where the pickup points were. Those who knew couldn’t always make it to the designated areas, especially when they had small children, elderly or impaired relatives in tow. For those who managed to get to the bus pickup points, they were vulnerable to looters. On the other hand, many of those portrayed as looters were grabbing food and water that would have been submerged anyhow, and sharing it with complete strangers. Some looters were good Samaritans, others were selfish opportunists, and some were both. A lot of peoples’ best and worst are on display here.What I particularly liked was that these stories reveal a lot of unexpected factors which shaped peoples’ decision-making: Even after the family store was entirely submerged, Abbas still wanted to hang around, figuring looters might hit the stores for salvage material once the waters began to recede. He and Darnell had plenty of food and water with them, taken from the store’s inventory. What finally forced them to abandon their vigil was Darnell’s asthma, and the urgent need to replenish his meds. When Leo and Michelle finally return to their apartment, they got some insurance money for their destroyed furniture and some other items, but the real value of what they lost is the records containing business contacts, professional notes, partially-written stories, and other difficult-to-reconstruct information. The news coverage of Katrina never went into things like this. Another side to this disaster, which I hadn’t known before is that in post-Katrina New Orleans, there is a very real and sometimes bitter schism between residents who have remained to help reconstruct, and those who have “defected” to begin life anew in other areas. Apparently, many of “the loyal” feel abandoned by the “quitters”, and refuse to maintain contact with them. Why haven’t I heard about this before? It’s heartbreaking, given what a sense of community this city had at one time. I don’t know what I’d do in a situation like that. It probably depends on how much I lost. I can understand older residents, who had lived in New Orleans their whole lives, feeling such ties to the region that they want to stick by it and lend a hand in its recovery. For younger residents, though, it’s much harder. Youth is the time when you want to strike out and make your way in the world. Even under the best of circumstances, there’s a lot of competition out there; a lot of challenges to contend with. I can understand not wanting to remain in an economically depressed area when one isn’t as emotionally invested in it as the older generation. This is a well-written and intriguing book. The artwork is mostly sufficient, and occasionally spectacular (e.g. the opening sequence with the cityscapes).