The Year Before the Flood
A Story of New Orleans
By Ned Sublette
(Lawrence Hill Books, Hardcover, 9781556528248, 496pp.)
Publication Date: September 2009
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With a style the Los Angeles Times calls as vivid and fast-moving as the music he loves,” Ned Sublette’s powerful new book drives the reader through the potholed, sinking streets of the United States’s least-typical city.
In this eagerly awaited follow-up to The World That Made New Orleans, Sublette’s award-winning history of the Crescent City’s colonial years, he traces an arc of his own experience, from the white supremacy of segregated 1950s Louisiana through the funky year of 20042005--the last year New Orleans was whole. By turns irreverent, joyous, darkly comic, passionate, and polemical, The Year Before the Flood juxtaposes the city’s crowded calendar of parties, festivals, and parades with the murderousness of its poverty and its legacy of racism. Along the way, Sublette opens up windows of American history that illuminate the present: the trajectory of Mardi Gras from preCivil War days, the falsification of Southern history in movies, the city’s importance to early rock and roll, the complicated story of its housing projects, the uniqueness of its hip-hop scene, and the celebratory magnificence of the participatory parades known as second lines. With a grand, unforgettable cast of musicians and barkeeps, scholars and thugs, vibrating with the sheer excitement of New Orleans, The Year Before the Flood is an affirmation of the power of the city’s culture and a heartbreaking tale of loss that definitively establishes Ned Sublette as a great American writer for the 21st century.
Ned Sublette is the author of The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square and Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Cofounder of the record label Qbadisc, he coproduced the public radio program Afropop Worldwide for seven years.
"An intense and thoughtful 'companion volume' to The World that Made New Orleans . . . A powerful, heartfelt and sometimes angry take on a great American city." Kirkus Reviews
"Ned Sublette is a literary Spirit Master, and The Year Before the Flood is his most personal and astounding work, full of mad knowledge and unorthodox insights about race, crime, history, politics, music and all the other ingredients that flavor the righteous roux that is New Orleans." T.J. English, author, Havana Nocturne and Paddy Whacked
"Ned Sublette is the rarest of writers. The Year Before The Floodhis third tour de force work on music, race, history, and conscienceis his most personal and memorable yet." Jeff Chang, author, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
"Ned Sublette sees the edgy magic of New Orleans with the eyes of both an insider and outsider. From race to music, from Parasol’s bar to the Mardi Gras Indians, he really gets it. His feel for the sources of jazz and funk flavor the book and make it a delight." Walter Isaacson, author, Einstein: His Life and Universe
"Sublette is a musical archeologist at heart . . . Part memoir, part history lesson, it's a scrapbook of the bustling port city at its most joyful, boisterous and deadly." Los Angeles Times
"Part memoir, part history, it's a profile of the rich New Orleans music culture that Katrina nearly erased." The Dallas Morning News
"A musician and musicologist, Sublette writes with passion and precision of New Orleans' music and Mardi Gras, violence and racism, and its uniqueand now perhaps permanently damagedculture." St. Petersburg Times
"Sublette's first-person narrative captures the Big Easy before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, and subtly hints at the surreal dysfunction that would take place immediately afterward." Time Out New York