KATRINA AND THE FRENCHMAN:
A JOURNAL FROM THE STREET
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I wrote the story | Media
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KATRINA AND THE FRENCHMAN: A JOURNAL FROM THE STREET
THE BEST POSSIBLE PLACE
THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME
On August 27, 2005, a Carnival cruise ship docked
at the harbor of New Orleans. Amongst the arrivals were Canadian
writer Marcy Italiano and her husband, G, wrapping a wild 10-year
anniversary celebration in a city they dearly loved.
But this was less than 48 hours before the levees
crumbled, and the nightmare began.
Katrina and The Frenchman is a haunting, harrowing
first-person account of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, seen from
the perspective of two tourists trapped in a city gripped by terror,
and coming apart at the seams. Repeatedly finding light in the
darkness, and then watching the darkness swallow it whole. Finally
forced to escape on their own, when the system broke down completely.
Mostly, though, this is a story about beautiful
people, and what they become as their hope runs out.
“I love this book. It’s a riveting
story, intimately told with skill, deep humility, startling honesty,
and the kind of stark photographic recall most people only achieve
when they find themselves suddenly slapped within an inch of their
lives by death. Which is, of course, precisely what happened;
and that profound revelation is delivered intact throughout the
course of this beautiful, powerful work.”
-- John Skipp, bestselling author of Jake’s
Wake and The Light At The End
Marcy Italiano is sharing their story so that donations
from sales of Katrina And The Frenchman: A Journal From The Street
can be made to Common Ground Relief, and to help the people of
**Update August 26th, 2009**
After the first two months I'd like to let you
know that a donation has already been sent to Common Ground Relief.
Thanks to all of you who bought a copy of the book and helped
make a difference.
"I just finished reading Katrina and the Frenchman...I
burned through (it) in about 5 hours. That should let you know
how much it blew me away. I’m still sitting here stunned
at what I’ve read.
Your experience was so tremendously different than mine. A polar
opposite in many ways. I went in not only voluntarily, but totally
prepared both mentally and physically for what I was about to
experience. I’d been chasing tornadoes for about five years
at that point so I had a pretty good understanding of what these
systems can do. We had lots of water, food and gas and we were
able to set up in a location that gave us maximum protection from
the wind and water.
And it was still the single most intense experience in my life
...The writing is incredibly personal and powerful.
I keep coming back to how different it was from what I went through
and that makes it so important to me to read it. I got the worst
part of the storm, but the easy part of the story. We were able
to escape in minutes after the wind died down and because we had
cars and lots of gas. Man, if I’d known what was going on
in the city, we would have headed straight into New Orleans and
started giving rides to get people out of there...We didn’t
meet that many people in the storm and I think that’s what
makes your story so powerful.
The ironic part of this is that I’m writing this on the
plane as I head to Fort MacMurray, another major disaster zone.
Your book made a huge difference in how I’m going to approach
the story that I’m heading into, so I have to say thank
you in a major way."
-- exerpt from an email (with permission) from Mark Robinson,
and Meteorologist at The Weather Network
"KATRINA AND THE FRENCHMAN: A JOURNAL FROM
THE STREET is a compelling personal account of a national tragedy.
Harrowing, vivid and incredibly touching, it will open your eyes
to the catastrophe that befell New Orleans."
-- Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon, authors of Mind
the Gap and The Map of Moments
From Bev Vincent:
“Novelists have often written about what might happen if
a city becomes cut off from the rest of the world. They speculate
about how humanity will react under these conditions. Picture
scenes from Stephen King's THE STAND where New Yorkers struggle
to leave the island after it is devastated by an epidemic. Disaster
brings out the best and the worst in people, but we don't often
have anything from the real world to decide if the fiction writers
got it right or not. In August 2005, nature handed us such an
“Hurricane Katrina was one of those events
that people watched around the world in real time. In Katrina
and the Frenchman: A Journal from the Street, Marcy Italiano offers
a first person account of what she and her husband experienced
from the day before the storm struck until they were ultimately
able to escape from New Orleans many days later. Those of us who
watched on television only got part of the picture--we could never
truly appreciate the horror of the situation from the comfort
of our living rooms--but at times we knew a lot more about the
"big picture" than those on the ground. Italiano takes
us through each day, from the point of no return after which people
were forced to remain in the city regardless of their desires,
through the harrowing hours of the storm itself and the aftermath,
which was in many ways worse than the hurricane. Food and water
became luxury items, as did information. Rumors swept through
the city like flood waters. Another hurricane was coming. Walls
of water were bearing down on the city. Buses were coming. Buses
weren't coming. Much of the information received by those who
were stranded was either wrong, misleading or useless. Invocations
to abandon the city now, issued long after the point where that
was still possible. Faulty directions. Lack of organization at
“Italiano introduces us to a small group of
survivors, referring to them by colorful nicknames--a city of
origin or a distinguishing feature. She takes us through the tedium
of waiting and not knowing, their gradual loss of faith that they
might ever get home again. Her book is intensely personal. She
reveals her anguishes, both physical and emotional. Having to
decide what belongings were worth keeping and which ones could
be jettisoned when they were forced to lighten their loads. Anger
at the unfairness of the situation, and grievances over small
issues that were magnified out of proportion due to the stress
of the situation. And, ultimately, the terror didn't end when
they were on a bus headed to Houston. Their escape was fortuitous
and she recounts a combination of survivor guilt--when she became
one of us, watching the disaster continue to unfold on her own
television--and post-traumatic stress reinforced by the pervasive
curiosity of everyone they talked with in the weeks after they
returned to Canada. Her anguish as she watched friends try to
decide what to do when Hurricane Rita materialized a few weeks
later. Even nature took a jab at them, sending the remains of
Rita to tumble the gazebo in their back yard.
“KATRINA AND THE FRENCHMAN: A JOURNAL FROM
THE STREET is a fast read, constructed in the form of a personal
diary or a blog, but it will have a lasting and profound impact
on readers as they are escorted on a guided tour of the closest
thing to hell this continent has experienced in a long time.”
-- Bev Vincent, author of The Road to the Dark Tower
"I devoured this book in one weekend... This
book is part therapy, part journal and part history. It is a painful
yet useful read to experience such an 'unfair' and horrific storm.
Thank you, Marcy Italiano..."
-- Cindy Matthews in her review in The Record
(read the full review
on the Media page)
“It was incredibly powerful and utterly gripping,
for sure. I read it in one sitting, with breaks to just cry. Oh,
hey, I'm going to cry again now just thinking about it.”
-- Mehitobel Wilson, author of the collection Dangerous
"Everyone knows that bad things happened to
New Orleans four years ago. If you read this book, you'll realize
that you had no idea how bad those things actually were, and what
an atrocity it is that the city was ignored, left to die, and
when it survived, never given a fair chance to recover. This book
has more amazing characters than any novel you've ever read, with
the possible exception of War and Peace, and every one
of them is real. They are heroic, terrified, good, evil, desperate,
caring, uncaring and any other human quality you can imagine.
Buy the book. Read the book. Trust me on this."
-- Dave Hogg, Associated Press Sports Writer - Here's a full
"In Katrina and the Frenchman: A Journal from
the Street, Marcy Italiano gives us a front-row view of her nerve-shearing
personal voyage through one of the most horrifying disasters in
recent memory. Written while the ragged wound in her emotions
still burned fresh, it's of the most disturbing reads I've ever
-- Mark W. Worthen, author of short stories "Old Hippies,
Duct Tape and Tough Choices", "With Black Curtains"
"I went to see Marcy Italiano and Tom Monteleone
read. Marcy was great, reading a very touching journal entry from
when she was stuck in New Orleans post-Katrina. There were few
dry eyes in the room."
-- Nate Southard blog entry (August 2006), author of Just
"I want to give a special shout out to Marcy
Italiano (www.marcyitaliano.com) who read from her soon to be
published (any publisher that doesn’t pick this up is either
stupid or crazy) book about her and her husband experiences at
ground zero in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina."
-- Robert Shuster from Sevancide.com
"It was such a good read that I lent out my
signed copy and never got it back."
-- Shannon Jaklitsch
"I’m halfway through and can’t
put it down. Just an amazing story! It’s also really good
to read on the ipad as I can go on google streetview and look
at the places as you describe them. I spent a couple of weeks
staying with friends in New Orleans, so my images of that city
run quite deep."
-- Bob Thompson
"I just wanted to send a little note to say
I just finally read your book. I felt as though you took me there
and I shared the experience with you and Giasone. It reduced me
to tears at many points and I truly felt your pain. I hope you
never have to endure something like that again in your lifetime.
I hope I never have to as well. I hope you have found some closure
by returning and although you will never forget this horrible
experience, can move past it and find some peace with it."
-- Diane Manderson
"Just letting you know I received my copy of
your book today. I had already decided beforehand that I would
wait for a while to read it, because I know it will be an emotional
journey. That being said, I'm on page 54. And I was only looking
it over! I guess I'm as ready to take the journey as I'll ever
be. I want to say that I'm looking forward to reading it, and
yet that somehow doesn't seem appropriate, given the subject matter.
It's more like I hear it calling me and I can't turn away."
-- Carolyn Kelly
"Your book arrived yesterday, which is amazingly
quick. I didn’t go pick up the mail until about 6:00 p.m.
and I was going to start it last night. Then I let (my wife) have
a look and she gobbled it up. I haven’t seen her read a
book in probably 5 or 6 years – she’s usually so busy
or tired at night – but she ran off to bed and read the
entire book front to back. She loved it, Marcy, and told me to
tell you how incredible she thought it was. She couldn’t
stop or put it down until she knew the whole story. Now it’s
my turn. I’ll hopefully get to it today and give you my
thoughts soon too. Just wanted to get on here and let you know
it arrived and what (my wife) thought."
"I'm enjoying reading your book so much I was
up till 1:30 am and then couldn't sleep and read some more."
-- Angela Cameron
"I read Katrina and the Frenchman last night
on a night shift, it was the first time in my life I've read an
entire book in one sitting. It was truly incredible. I was in
New Orleans in Oct 2006 and saw the aftermath a full year later
and I can still only imagine the first hand experience. I wanted
to thank you for sharing such a life changing story."
-- Patrick Gulka
"I read the book. You got me!! I read it in
one sitting – I was going to bed and stayed up all night.
Powerful! I felt I was there. Your intimate reactions brought
life and reality to those of us who watched the aftermath via
CNN news. You put a face and soul to the horror. KEEP WRITING!!"
"Re: my comment about tough moments in the
book. Wow, there were a lot for me: obviously, the moment with
the woman and her dead baby, and the body revealed to Curious-Girl.
I think some of the "offscreen" stuff, also, like when
G. made you promise not to look into the Convention Center. It's
weird, because I said your voice and tone carried me through the
tough moments, but they also made them *worse*, because you form
such a strong, compassionate bond with the reader--we hear things
through your voice, see them through your eyes, but we're also
watching YOU in the situation, and worrying about your own suffering.
I think I especially identified with the physical issues (not
sure if you could walk the distance; hanging onto the water bottle,
etc.), and the insomnia scene--that weird kind of worry spiral
that I sometimes have in even the safest moments. You really put
us through the scenes WITH you. Such a compelling narrative."
Last but not least, the rejection that made
me finally decide to self-publish and send donations back to New
Orleans to help rebuild...
"I think you have created something powerful and important.
It is not, however, something that O’More Publishing can
print. ... The language is too harsh, for instance, for what we
have worked on so far and what we plan on working on during the
near future. BUT, the language reflects the story too closely
to be changed; I could not ask you to change it."
-- Jessa R. Sexton, O'More Publishing