Voices from the Storm: The People of New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath

About the Book

Hurricane Katrina inflicted damage on a scale unprecedented in American history, nearly destroying a major city and killing thousands of its citizens. With far too little help from indifferent, incompetent government agencies, low-income people bore the brunt of the disaster. The residents of traditionally marginalized communities suffered incalculable losses and endured unimaginable conditions.

Now, the victims of Hurricane Katrina find themselves spread across the United States, far from the homes they left and faced with the prospect of starting anew. Families are struggling to secure jobs, homes, schools, and a sense of place in unfamiliar surroundings. Meanwhile, the rebuilding of their former home remains frustratingly out of their hands. This bracing read brings readers to the heart of the disaster and its aftermath as those who survived it speak out about their lives then and now.

Narrators Include:

DAN BRIGHT: The night before the storm, Bright was arrested on false charges and held in Orleans Parish Prison. When the storm came, guards abandoned the building, leaving Bright and his fellow inmates to break out of their cells to save their lives.

FATHER VIEN THE NGUYEN: Father Nguyen stayed through the storm to aid parishioners who could not evacuate. As the days wore on and their supplies dwindled, help was nowhere to be found.

RHONDA SYLVESTER: After weathering the storm, Sylvester floated her grandchildren in buckets through miles of filthy floodwater, searching for rescuers. Buses meant to take them to safety eventually moved them to a highway where they languished for days.

ABDULRAHMAN ZEITOUN: Zeitoun traveled around the city in a canoe rescuing stranded neighbors and animals for days before being arrested under suspicion of terrorism. He was then held for weeks without charges or contact with his family.

About the Editors:

Chris Ying was formerly the publisher of McSweeney’s and the managing editor of Voice of Witness. He is now the editor-in-chief of Lucky Peach.

Lola Vollen is a physician and human rights activist. She is a co-founder of Voice of Witness as well as The Life After Exoneration Program.

Praise for Voices from the Storm:

Voices from the Storm uses oral history to let those who survived the hurricane tell their (sometimes surprising) stories.

Inbali Iserles for Independent UK 

Voices from the Storm is a powerful book with a clear agenda that draws its strengths from the real voices of real New Orleanians.

Susan Larson for times-picayune (Available to read at McSweeney’s)

Related Resources

View the Lesson Plans
The lessons use oral history to promote a nuanced understanding of the people of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina.
Book Club Discussion Questions
Use these questions to encourage meaningful discussions about the book.
National Arts in Education Week
Theatrical Adaptation at Oakland Tech
Students from Oakland Tech High School performed a theatrical adaptation of Voices from the Storm.
Review on McSweeney’s (originally from Times-Picayune)
Read Susan Larson’s review, originally printed in the Times-Picayune here at McSweeney’s.

Media Coverage

huffington post