Katrina: Book summary and reviews of Katrina by Gary Rivlin

Katrina

After the Flood

by Gary Rivlin

Katrina by Gary Rivlin X
Katrina by Gary Rivlin
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About this book

Book Summary

Traces the stories of New Orleanians of all stripes as they confront the aftermath of one of the great tragedies of our age.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana—on August 29, 2005—journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm's immediate damage, the city of New Orleans's efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm's lasting affects not just on the city's geography and infrastructure—but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation's great cities.

Much of New Orleans still sat under water the first time Gary Rivlin glimpsed the city after Hurricane Katrina. Then a staff reporter for The New York Times, he was heading into the city to survey the damage. The Interstate was eerily empty. Soldiers in uniform and armed with assault rifles stopped him. Water reached the eaves of houses for as far as the eye could see.

Four out of every five houses—eighty percent of the city's housing stock—had been flooded. Around that same proportion of schools and businesses were wrecked. The weight of all that water on the streets cracked gas and water and sewer pipes all around town and the deluge had drowned almost every power substation and rendered unusable most of the city's water and sewer system.

People living in flooded areas of the city could not be expected to pay their property taxes for the foreseeable future. Nor would all those boarded-up businesses—21,000 of the city's 22,000 businesses were still shuttered six months after the storm—be contributing their share of sales taxes and other fees to the city's coffers. Six weeks after the storm, the city laid off half its workforce—precisely when so many people were turning to its government for help. Meanwhile, cynics both in and out of the Beltway were questioning the use of taxpayer dollars to rebuild a city that sat mostly below sea level. How could the city possibly come back?

This book traces the stories of New Orleanians of all stripes—politicians and business owners, teachers and bus drivers, poor and wealthy, black and white—as they confront the aftermath of one of the great tragedies of our age and reconstruct, change, and in some cases abandon a city that's the soul of this nation.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
Gary Rivlin is a consummate reporter. On a major catastrophe like Katrina, he's one voice you know you can trust because his articles go straight down the line on what happened here, what the reaction of the people involved was, bang, bang, bang, very focused, very quick, very on deadline.

In 400 pages it's tougher. There has to be some glimmer of humanity, and there is a bit in "Katrina," but you have to really look for it. This is more a book for policy wonks who keep close tabs on the statistics of an event and want to know exactly what happened, and don't mind there not being a whole lot of humanity in the telling. To be sure, he gets to the core of the faults of those involved, such as how Ray Nagin, despite being seen as "America's Mayor" in a brief few moments in the spotlight after Katrina, was consumed more by ego than by setting his city right again.

It could be a seminal work to some, a comprehensive explanation of what went wrong where in the aftermath, but it's more detail-driven than anything else. It gets tiring for that reason. Details are ok, if a little more can be offered alongside them, but one is hit over the head constantly with this name and that name and this date and that date. There's so much to cover and there's the feeling here that he wanted to cover it all, but much suffers as a result.

- Rory L. Aronsky

Other Reviews
"For those interested in how New Orleans came to the brink of destruction and slowly fought its way back to become a thriving, even improved, metropolis, this is certainly a work worth checking out." - Publishers Weekly

"This blow-by-blow account of the months and years after Katrina brings back the frustration felt by so many who watched the devastation unfold and raises important questions about the role of race in the response to natural disasters." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Rivlin's exquisitely detailed narrative captures the anger, fatigue, and ambiguity of life during the recovery, the centrality of race at every step along the way, and the generosity of many from elsewhere in the country." - Kirkus Reviews

"Gary Rivlin's sharp eye for detail, grasp of the big picture and thorough reporting reveals the endless errors, egregious official conduct and exploitation that compounded the misery of Katrina victims long after the storm. It's a helluva a book that should arouse every American to demand reform before disasters strike their communities." - David Cay Johnston, Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, author of Divided and Perfectly Legal

"The vividly-told and haunting Katrina is vital, not only for understanding New Orleans, and what happened there over the last ten years, but for understanding how divisions of race and class are perpetuated across America today." - Michael Eric Dyson, author of April 4, 1968

"The once-great city of New Orleans wasn't destroyed just by a force of nature. Along with the hurricane came a category-5 tsunami of racism, operating at every level from armed encounters in the streets to serene indifference in the White House. Gary Rivlin, one of our finest journalists, chronicles it all in superb and riveting detail." - Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickle and Dimed

"Katrina is an important book. It's important not because it's brilliantly reported or well-written, not because it uncovers everything from political maneuvering in the White House to despicable acts of selfishness, and not because it also tells stories of courage and tenacity which give meaning to the word "inspirational." It's important as a case study of both how not to handle a disaster and how to survive one. There are real lessons here." - John M. Barry, author Rising Tide and The Great influenza

This information about Katrina was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Gary Rivlin

Gary Rivlin, an investigative reporting fellow at The Nation Institute, is a former New York Times reporter and the author of five books, including most recently Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, GQ, and Wired, among other publications.

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