The pandemic halted many of our local events this year, from parades to performances. One event in particular, the Louisiana Book Festival, had to cancel its annual day-long celebration in downtown this November.
The showcase for local and regional authors had long been a good way to get young people excited about reading or introduce ourselves to new writers and books.
So we asked State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton and Louisiana Book Festival Director Jim Davis to share some of their favorite books by Louisiana authors that came out in 2020. Add these to your reading list, or gift them to loved ones for the holidays.
—AS TOLD TO BENJAMIN LEGER
TEXT HAS BEEN EDITED FOR SPACE AND CLARITY
‘Stone Motel: Memoirs of a Cajun Boy’
By Morris Ardoin
“This memoir will resonate with those searching for personal identity in an unaccepting time or place. It speaks to many aspects of the human condition, such as pain, conditional and unconditional love, heartache and perseverance, while providing vivid descriptions of family and place against the backdrop of Cajun Louisiana in the ’60s and ’70s.”
‘The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope after Prison’
By Jason Hardy
“This is for anyone interested in social justice. It provides an in-depth analysis of the New Orleans criminal probation and parole system, and offers insight and suggested opportunities to help solve the cruelest problems that prisons create for offenders and society at large.”
By Katy Simpson Smith
“Set in Rome, this historical novel spans 2000 years of history, and has been described as a story about love in all of its forms. It ponders elemental questions of good and evil, and obedience and free will. As the characters struggle with forces they cannot control, their circumstances raise a timeless question: What is our duty to each other, and what will God forgive?”
‘Last One Out Shut Off the Lights’
By Stephanie Soileau
“This collection features 11 gripping short stories of enduring and unforgettable characters who struggle to gain a foothold in a world many Louisianans can relate to: one that is forever washing out from under them. These people make their lives in the ‘last-chance towns’ of southwest Louisiana, coming to terms with how the oil industry, industrial pollution, eroding wetlands and the threat of hurricanes have nearly destroyed their sense of home.”
‘The Big Door Prize’
By M. O. Walsh
“Those who love traditional Southern novels that are honestly written; have an eclectic cast of characters and hometown feel; are funny, sad and suspenseful; and share lessons to be learned, will love this book. You will see someone you know, maybe even yourself, among the characters in this pre-pandemic novel that could have been written today. Part of the book’s message—not taking our lives for granted because it can be upended in an instant and without warning—is relevant to all of us in 2020.”
‘Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy’
By Edward Ball
“This non-fiction book was not written by a Louisiana author, but by the great-great-grandson of a Louisiana Klansman. He reconstructs the life of his great-great-grandfather, Constant Lecorgne, through a series of stories that remind us how resentment handed down through the generations is still present in our society today; and are worthy of dissecting and confronting for the future.”
This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.