A Family Feature
Maybe it’s the influence of the texts I review for this issue. Susan Wittig-Albert and Laura Lippman’s newest mysteries render complicated family plots, and my pairing of Zachary Lazar’s newest, Vengeance with Valerie Martin’s Trespass (2007) finds that they offer a compelling--if ugly--portrait of the current U. S. zeitgeist on immigration and incarceration issues.
More likely it’s the summer-long story unfolding on the United States/Mexico border: incessant, searing images of families being torn apart. To me, it all recalls the disruptions of Katrina and the levee break and raises both the theoretical question of how creatively –both expansively and inclusively--we can define family and community and the practical one of how we can sustain these vital human units.
I think of the oft-repeated claim that Mother Teresa said she would rather attend a pro-peace rally than an anti-war march. Her distinction highlights the significance of language and its ability to picture and perhaps even conjure what one is for rather than what one is against.
Following the example of Mother Teresa, NOLA Diaspora models what we want to see, and what we want to see are creative and productive individuals in flourishing family units of their choice, working within and for contented, safe, and prospering communities. Therefore, this issue is our family feature. Two families from Shreveport—the Havirds and Hanna/Allens—have contributed, as has one family from New Orleans, the Kamenetzes.
The Kamenetz family epitomizes in a positive way the term public intellectual. When they speak—in figurative or factual language—it is always with consideration and compassion. Theirs is always an encompassing vision.
The Havirds and Hanna-Allens have worked to build Centenary College and the Shreveport community for more than three decades. Bruce Allen has served as chair of the Art Department for twenty-three years, and Kristi Hanna is a dancer, artist, and healer (in the Feldenkrais tradition) in her hometown. Poet and novelist Ashley Mace Havird has been active in Centenary and community affairs for several decades, while David Havird is a faculty leader in the interdisciplinary Centenary in Paris program.
In Robert Frost’s “The Death of the Hired Man,” the most famous line may be from Warren, “’Home is the place where, when you have to go there/ They have to take you in.’” I want to highlight how cumbersome that sentence is and to suggest that its awkwardness somehow indicates its coldness.
I emphasize instead the following line and alternate definition from Mary, “I should have called it/Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
As we continue to reconsider family and democracy in the twenty-first century, I also want to underscore an earlier line from Mary, “’Yes, what else but home?’” Yes. Indeed. What else?
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