My New Orleans, Gone Away: A Memoir of Loss and Renewal (Hardcover)

A Memoir of Loss and Renewal

By Peter M. Wolf

Delphinium Books, 9781883285562, 322pp.

Publication Date: July 9, 2013



In this poignant and vivid memoir, Peter M. Wolf, a member of one of New Orleans’s oldest Jewish families, provides an insider’s look at his fabled city and the wider world beyond that he comes to inhabit.

Written with humor and telling detail, MY NEW ORLEANS contains rare insight about the social structure of New Orleans; student life at Exeter, Tulane and Yale; the thrill of original scholarship; around the world travel before jets; medical school trauma; ingrained southern racism, and anti-Semitism; and American students’ role in antiVietnam uprisings in Paris. In the background, he traces the rags to riches rise and fall of his city’s and his family’s engagement in the cotton, sugar and retail trades.

At Yale, Wolf’s closest friends include Calvin Trillin, the author and celebrated humorist-to-be; Henry Geldzahler, the future world famous art historian; and Gerald Jonas, the poet and writer. These three, whose stories are woven into the narrative, conspire to unveil Wolf’s curious 1950’s variety of assimilated southern Judaism. (Trillin has contributed a Foreword).

After a year of medical school at Columbia, and continuing his journey of selfdiscovery, Wolf returns to New Orleans to work in his father’s cotton brokerage and simultaneously earns a master’s degree at Tulane. In spite of a spicy love affair, his residence in a glorious French Quarter courtyard, his purchase of a dilapidated building he expects to restore, and growing prominence in his community, Wolf returns to the east. He completes doctoral studies at NYU and becomes an architectural historian, a profession in which he earns considerable prominence.

The author’s complicated and achingly explored romantic life is slammed to a close by a saucy, waspy, ex-pat from Texas whom he meets in Paris during his year as a Fulbright scholar, and subsequently marries.

Reflecting the yearnings and anxieties of a generation that came of age after World War II, this is the iconic journey of a restless man who leaves the hometown he loves to discover the world, and in so doing, to find himself. MY NEW ORLEANS offers a penetrating and memorable account of a fading period of America’s evolution, turbulence and possibilities, as unique as the city of Wolf’s memory.

Praise For My New Orleans, Gone Away: A Memoir of Loss and Renewal

"I adore this book and read it in a kind of dreamy fog, unable to put it down and think of anything else. It strikes just the perfect note for a New Orleans memoir, smart and graceful, with the affectionate heart of a native son and the clear eyes and keen intelligence of a scholar of cities. And it's a very brave book, coming from a man who's struggled and taken risks for his passions. What a lovely way Peter Wolf has found to reconcile his past and present selves!" -Susan Larson, The Reading Life, WWNO

"A heartfelt, intimate, and painfully honest account of the coming of age of one shy boy and of the exotic city he left behind, but will never forget. A story of the courage of breaking away and the "you are there" descriptions of places and people that make the reader part of this narrative of struggle and triumph." -Barbara Goldsmith, Author and Historian

"Peter Wolf’s book is a charming, insightful memoir, which is beautifully written and descriptive of what it was like up to grow up Jewish in New Orleans in the mid-20th century. Peter’s journey from the Big Easy to Exeter, Yale, New York, Paris, and back to New Orleans makes for fascinating reading. His background as a onetime medical student, cotton broker, and student of art history and architecture indicates the breadth and depth of his interests and life experiences. This is a book worth reading for those who enjoy memoirs steeped with interesting people, places and experiences." –Scott Cowen, President, Tulane University

"Peter Wolf has planned communities, and written meaningfully about the importance of place, for much of his life. In New Orleans: Gone Away, you realize where it all comes from, and how powerfully the aura of New Orleans has influenced everything he has done. This book weaves together Wolf's family, his travels, and his career as a writer, art historian, and planner into a story that is personal and intimate, yet addresses something that matters to every one of us: the compelling theme of home, and how all of us are shaped by it." –Paul Goldberger, architecture critic, Pulitzer Prize winner