New Orleans changes boy’s life in new book _lowres


“New Orleans Spirit: A Tchoupitoulas Life” by Richard Edgar Zwez. Createspace, 2014. $15.

Tired of moving from town to town with his artist mother, Johnny Smith begs his mother to consider New Orleans as one of their future destinations. The move would put them close to family and bring them to a bigger city than they had previously lived in.

After only a couple of days in town, Johnny’s mother decides to move on again, promising to send for him when she can. Leaving him in a new city with family, but relatively a bunch of strangers, Johnny decides that this year without his mom will be his own new start.

Immediately, Johnny eases himself into the neighborhood. From meeting the adults in the neighborhood to meeting new kids on the playground, his new home on Tchoupitoulas Street affords him easy access to many parts of New Orleans, and his ability to get out of the house allows him to see the city come alive. But it’s what he learns from the streets, people and adventures changes him, and when his mother returns, we learn how his year really was for him.

Anna Guerra, Denham Springs

“The Keys Are Being Passed: Race, Law, Religion and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement” by Jonathan C. Augustine. ROM Publishing, 2014. $19.99.

As the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and looks forward to similar acknowledgement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, lawyer and minister Jonathan C. “Jay” Augustine has written a book connecting law and religion in civil rights.

Augustine, a New Orleans native, former East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member and an adjunct law professor at Southern University, wrote “The Keys are Being Passed: Race, Law, Religion and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement” to examine historical events and legal landmarks and offer suggestions on continuing engagement by applying Christian ethics to social problems, such as environmental justice and economic empowerment through better schools.

The book’s title comes from Matthew 16, in which Jesus is described as passing “the keys” to his disciple, Peter. The modern-day “keys” are legacy and responsibility to serve the marginalized in modern communities.

While few may find fault with the “keys” he recommends — community engagement, bipartisan cooperation for better schools and accountability, being good stewards of the Earth and voting — other perspectives may be open to argument. For example, he calls Louisiana a leader in a new civil rights movement and New Orleans “an obvious leader” in environmental justice. Even so, this book makes for an interesting read as he suggests “impatient waiting” — social action in the “urgency of now.”

Cleo Allen, Gonzales