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Beyond Katrina

A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Natasha Trethewey

Publication Year: 2010

Beyond Katrina is poet Natasha Trethewey’s very personal profile of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and of the people there whose lives were forever changed by hurricane Katrina.

Trethewey spent her childhood in Gulfport, where much of her mother’s extended family, including her younger brother, still lives. As she worked to understand the devastation that followed the hurricane, Trethewey found inspiration in Robert Penn Warren’s book Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South, in which he spoke with southerners about race in the wake of the Brown decision, capturing an event of wide impact from multiple points of view. Weaving her own memories with the experiences of family, friends, and neighbors, Trethewey traces the erosion of local culture and the rising economic dependence on tourism and casinos. She chronicles decades of wetland development that exacerbated the destruction and portrays a Gulf Coast whose citizens—particularly African Americans—were on the margins of American life well before the storm hit. Most poignantly, Trethewey illustrates the destruction of the hurricane through the story of her brother’s efforts to recover what he lost and his subsequent incarceration.

Renowned for writing about the idea of home, Trethewey’s attempt to understand and document the damage to Gulfport started as a series of lectures at the University of Virginia that were subsequently published as essays in the Virginia Quarterly Review. For Beyond Katrina, Trethewey has expanded this work into a narrative that incorporates personal letters, poems, and photographs, offering a moving meditation on the love she holds for her childhood home.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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p. ix

List of Illustrations

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p. xi

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p. 1

Years ago, when I began thinking I would write poems, I started recording in my journal the images that had stayed with me— even haunted —from my childhood. Always in that list were images related to storms...

ONE: 2007

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Theories of Time and Space

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pp. 5-6

You can get there from here, though there's no going home. Everywhere you go will be somewhere you've never been. Try this...

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pp. 7-28

Nearing my hometown I turn west onto Interstate 10, the southernmost coast-to-coast highway in the United States. I've driven this road thousands of times, and I know each curve and rise of it as it passes through...

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pp. 29-30

What's left is footage: the hours before Camille, 1969 — hurricane parties, palm trees leaning in the wind, fronds blown back...

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Before Katrina

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pp. 31-52

Ships entering the harbor at Gulfport, the major crossroads of the Mississippi coast, arrive at the intersection of the beach road, U.S. 90, and U.S. 49—the legendary highway of blues songs—by way of a deep channel that cuts through the brackish waters of the Mississippi Sound...

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pp. 53-68

The morning after the storm, hundreds of live oaks still stood among the rubble along the coast. They held in their branches a car, a boat, pages torn from books, furniture. Some people who managed to climb out of windows...

TWO: 2009

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pp. 71-82

...Here is North Gulfport — its liquor stores and car washes, trailers and shotgun shacks propped at the road's edge; its brick houses hunkered against the weather, anchored...

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High Rollers

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pp. 83-94

Somewhere in the post-katrina damage and disarray of my grandmother's house is a photograph of Joe and me—our arms around each other's shoulders. We are at a long-gone nightclub in Gulfport,...

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pp. 95-116

the first letter my brother writes me during his incarceration arrives on August 13, 2008—a week after we bury our grandmother. It comes bearing his name and his inmate number, r0470, along with a warning, stamped in red, that the letter is from an inmate and that the facility...

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pp. 117-124

Some things have stayed with me through all of this and happen in my memory as if they are still occurring—like a story I am rewriting until I get the ending right. I know too that it's a form of rebuilding...

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pp. 125-126

I thought that when I saw my brother walking through the gates of the prison, he would look like a man...

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p. 127

There are many people to whom I owe a great deal of thanks: Ted Genoways, editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, without whose ideas and encouragement this book would never have been written; Erika Stevens...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337524
E-ISBN-10: 0820337528
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820333816
Print-ISBN-10: 0820333816

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 12 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 810038966
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond Katrina

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Environmental aspects -- Mississippi -- Gulf Coast.
  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Social aspects -- Mississippi -- Gulf Coast.
  • Trethewey, Natasha D., 1966- -- Homes and haunts -- Mississippi -- Gulf Coast.
  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Economic aspects -- Mississippi -- Gulf Coast.
  • African Americans -- Mississippi -- Gulf Coast -- Social conditions.
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