Book relief

Books can seem more than slightly beside the point right now, what with the corpses abandoned on sweltering New Orleans streets and survivors crammed into “shelters” and forbidden reentry if they leave for the afternoon.

But if you’re like me, you can reach way back to childhood and conjure up the feeling of escape your favorite books offered. I remember lying in bed late at night, reading The Cricket in Times Square or It’s Like This, Cat with a penlight and polishing off a bad of generic Doritos, while all hell broke loose in my living room. Naturally I put some energy into a vague hope my mom didn’t know where my dad had hidden the shotgun. But mostly I stayed focused on the cricket, the boy who fed his cat dog food and had a shitty time of it, and other characters whose lives seemed as real to me as my own. I left an orangey nacho cheese stain at the top of every page.

In the hope that some preteen kid crammed into a cot next to his parents in the Astrodome will find similar refuge in books, I’m assembling a pile of old favorites to send the Katrina Literary Collective. If you’d like to offer bookish assistance to the hurricane victims, here’s how you can help:

  • Publishers: donate free printing services or other assistance to a successful — but now stalled — inner-city literary project designed to refute the notion that New Orleans neighborhoods are all about violence and drugs.
  • The Katrina Literary Collective is collecting and distributing books to victims of the hurricane. For more information, contact the Amber Communications Group at (Via email from Poets & Writers.)
  • The Louisiana Disaster Relief Fund is taking monetary donations to assist libraries in Southeastern Louisiana. For more information, visit the American Library Association at (Via Poets & Writers.)
  • The American Booksellers Association has created a Bookseller Relief Fund to assist independent booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Visit (Via Poets & Writers.)
  • Booksxyz, an Internet bookstore based in Lafayette, Louisiana, donates proceeds from its sales to public education in the U.S., and is soliciting donations, via check or credit card, for public schools affected by the catastrophe.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.