A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
By Josh Neufeld. Pantheon, 208 pp, $28.95, hardcover
Reams have been written, and will no doubt continue to be written, about the official responses to Hurricane Katrina. Accusing fingers have been pointed at politicians at all levels of government, who are widely viewed as having failed the people of the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit on August 29, 2005. Josh Neufeld clearly has no intention of adding to the noise. His compelling new graphic novel A.D. is not about Ray Nagin or Kathleen Blanco or Michael Chertoff or George W. Bush. Instead, drawing on interviews with survivors, Neufeld focuses on the stories of seven New Orleans residents whose lives were affected directly by the most devastating tropical cyclone ever to make landfall in the United States.
Zinester and comic-book obsessive Leo heeds the evacuation order and gets the hell out of the city with his girlfriend Michelle. So do pastor’s kid Kwame and his family, who leave church and home in the Lord’s hands while they beat a hasty retreat to Tallahassee, Florida. The Doctor (aka Brobson), on the other hand, decides to stay put in his French Quarter home, hosting a party for friends who have likewise refused to leave. Iranian immigrant Abbas sends his family off to safety but stays behind to guard his Uptown convenience store in the company of his buddy Darnell, who figures “It’s gonna be just like Survivor!” Denise, on the other hand, doesn’t have much choice—her mother is a surgical tech who decides that her place is at the hospital, leaving her daughter stuck with her in the Crescent City.
Denise sees the worst the storm has to offer. With her home trashed by the storm and the hospital full, she seeks refuge at the convention centre, which is teeming with the displaced, hungry, parched, and, in at least one case, dying. According to Denise’s account, the “thugs” who loot a nearby grocery store and distribute water and food do a far better job of aiding their fellow citizens than do the police or military, whose ride-pasts do little more than incite anger.
On second thought, maybe Neufeld, in his subtle way, is indicting the powers that be after all.