Natasha Trethewey moves Beyond Katrina in her new book

The Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey will read from her new book Beyond Katrina at Seven Stages tonight Thurs., Sept. 16 at 7 pm.

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  • Courtesy UGA Press

Forgive the pun, but readers have been experiencing a deluge of Hurricane Katrina related books for years now. There have been graphic novels and collections of newspaper columns and novelized accounts and oral histories and minutely-detailed, precisely-researched historical volumes. It’s been happening in other art forms, too: Lil’ Wayne recorded one of his most inspired mixtape tracks while in the grips of post-Katrina anti-Bush rage, Eve Ensler’s working on a play, Spike Lee’s already got two documentaries in the can, and Atlanta’s own Spruill Gallery just closed an exhibition of art reflecting back on the event.

In considering that Spruill exhibition and couple of others, Cinque Hicks noted that in the five years since, “Our appetite for the iconography of disaster proved bottomless. New Orleans artist Susan Gisleson called it “emotional pornography.” If President Bush failed his moral duty by not looking at the disaster closely enough, the rest of us were going to make up for it by fixating on the devastation with a terminally morbid fascination.”

That is, of course, a loaded way to frame the introduction of a new book, Beyond Katrina by Natasha Trethewey, but the author’s responsibilities are loaded, too. If the subject has not only been written about, but written about very, very well, then the pressure is on the book to prove it’s own necessity, to answer “What can this book do that the others haven’t already?”

Part of Trethewey’s answer to that question is a correction to the established narrative. When Trethewey asks her audiences what they remember about Katrina, she writes in the introduction, “Almost all of them say “New Orleans,” ... Almost never does anyone answer “the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”” Trethewey endeavors to correct that omission in Beyond Katrina, contextualizing the economy and culture of Gulfport, MS into the event that devastated it.