Consuming KatrinaPublic Disaster and Personal Narrative

Consuming KatrinaPublic Disaster and Personal Narrative

Kate Parker Horigan

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496817884

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


When survivors are seen as agents in their own stories, they will be seen as agents in their own recovery. A better grasp on the processes of narration and memory is critical for improved disaster response because stories that are widely shared about disaster determine how communities recover. This book shows how the public understands and remembers large-scale disasters like Hurricane Katrina, discussing unique contexts in which personal narratives about the storm are shared: interviews with survivors, Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun, Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s Trouble the Water, and public commemoration during the storm’s 10th anniversary in New Orleans. In each case, survivors initially present themselves in specific ways, counteracting negative stereotypes that characterize their communities. However, when adapted for public presentation, their stories get reduced back to stereotypes. As a result, people affected by Katrina continue to be seen in limited terms, as either undeserving of or incapable of managing recovery. This project is rooted in the author’s own experiences living in New Orleans before and after Katrina. But this is also a case study illustrating an ongoing problem and an innovative solution: survivors’ stories should be shared in a way that includes their own engagement with the processes of narrative production, circulation, and reception. In other words, we should know—when we hear the dramatic tale of disaster victims—what they think about how their story is being told to us.