Thursday, December 27, 2012

In The Spirit Of New Orleans

It's no secret that I love New Orleans. And it's no secret that Debra Shriver loves New Orleans too.

I was listening to an interview with her on the radio the other day (on NPR). I was just flipping the dial when the warmth of her voice captured me. She was taking about the small moments she cherishes when she's in New Orleans. She talked about being on "siesta time" when she's here. Her impressions were contagious and captivating.

from In The Spirit Of  New Orleans

Debra Shriver wrote a book about her personal story about purchasing and restoring a home in the French Quarter in the gorgeous book "Stealing Magnolias - Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard". So when she told me she was doing a second book about New Orleans, I was intrigued.

What more could she say? PLENTY! The new book is published by Assouline, who has a series of "In The Spirit Of..." books, and it is great that they decided to include New Orleans, and even better that they tapped Debra Shriver to write it. So here we now have "In The Spirit of New Orleans."

Get this book!

The blurb from Assouline says that "Debra Shriver is a twelfth-generation Southerner, admitted Francophile, and devotee of jazz music. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she and her journalist husband bought and lovingly restored an 1850s Greek Revival home in the city’s historic Vieux Carré neighborhood, and chronicled her incredible story in Stealing Magnolias: Tales From a New Orleans Courtyard, published in 2010. She is a media executive with the company founded by William Randolph Hearst and sits on the boards of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and the Apollo Theater Foundation in Harlem. Shriver is a self-professed “New-New,” dividing her time between New York and New Orleans."

Moon over Bourbon Street from In The Spirit Of New Orleans

Debra and her husband Jerry are are dual citizens of New Orleans and New York. They just don't blow into town and party at a second home, but rather have become involved in the rebirth of post Katrina New Orleans. They put their money and their time where their hearts are.

There is a great overview of Jazz in the book In The Spirit Of New Orleans from it's roots to Louis Armstrong... it's current crop of fabulous younger musicians (Troy Andrews above)

"In The Spirit Of New Orleans" has all the cultural touchstones: Jazz, history, religion, food and drink, architecture, customs, people, and Mardi Gras. But yet this is vastly far from a  retread of a typical guide book. Through Debra's depth of feeling and understanding of her adopted city, its familiar themes become fresh, current, and relevant. Her writing is that of a wise and gifted storyteller. Even for those of us who know the stories of New Orleans, we are still drawn into how Debra tells (writes) them. She is a beautiful wordsmith.

New Orleans is relevant

And of course its history adds to its relevance

The selection of photographs is glorious, and the information given in the book is super solid.  There are several fascinating glossaries, one devoted to Jazz terms, one devoted to Voodoo words, and one devoted to Mardi Gras words, and there is a list of festivals and dates. The Secret Gardens & Fine Addresses guide is perfect and extremely useful.

The old Butcher's Market in the old French Market, which still exists today

As a local I love seeing books that tell the story of New Orleans with depth and understanding. I am proud to own In The Spirit Of New Orleans, and derive great pleasure from reading it. I will also be proud to give it as a gift to those who have never been to New Orleans, or to those who have visited - It is a perfect memento of their time here.

Debra devotes a couple of pages to quotes from notables and what they have to say about New Orleans. I think Chris Rose says it best, "We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large, and, frankly we're suspicious of others who don't".

Put this book on your must have list, and if you got a little Christmas cash, pick it up today. Debra is  on a book signing tour with In The Spirit Of New Orleans, so if you happen upon her, tell her The Vamp sends you.

One of my favorite paintings by Jacques Aman done in 1840,  entitled "Creole in a Red Turban" - It's included in Debra Shriver's book and it is in the collection of the Historic New Orleans Collection via

PS I would love for Debra Shriver to do a third book on New Orleans about the Quadroon Balls (a ballroom still survives in the Bourbon Orleans Hotel), the system of placage (the word is in her unique Voodoo Glossary), about the homes that the system of placage created that still stand in the French Quarter, and about the dual families who participated, the stories about their lives.

All photos courtesy of Assouline

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  1. Thanks for giving us a sneak peak! I purchased In the Spirit of New Orleans from Hazelnut earlier this month and they had Debra sign it for me. I'm eagerly waiting for the mail so I can dive in.

  2. Thanks for a glimpse into the book - I am purchasing it this weekend! New Orleans is my all-time favorite city and I hope to get to move there one day..

  3. wow!! What a fab book!!! The dangerous one click will be used momentarily!!
    And another copy for Renee !!! She has a Greek revival house there in addition to her carriage house in Montecito !

  4. Can't wait to put this book on my New Year's list of books to read. How would we know, but for you Valorie, that there is so much literature being currently published on NO. Congratulations to the author and to the city for the recognition.

  5. i love the creole in the red turban.
    so beautiful.

    happy new year
    and i send all my love xoxs


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