I had thought that I was burned out on reading about hurricane Katrina but when I happened upon Michael Tisserand’s Sugarcane Academy the other day I stayed up until after 2 a.m. reading it. I found myself fascinated by the story of Paul Reynaud– a New Orleans first grade teacher who was the driving force behind the creation of Sugarcane Academy, a school for evacuee children that was created in New Iberia Louisiana in the weeks immediately following the storm and then continued in borrowed space at Loyola University in New Orleans once people were allowed back into the city.
Tisserand’s approach to the material seems to combine the best of the forms of memoir and hard news reporting. He begins by relating the tale of evacuating to New Iberia to stay with friends, then goes on to relate first his own experiences as a parent getting involved with the creation of Sugarcane Academy, then reports about other schools that were created for evacuee children, including New Orleans West in Houston and St. Bernard Unified in Chalmette. At first I was drawn in by reading yet again the now familiar story of fleeing from the killer storm. As the book progressed I was fascinated by the stories of the children and their remarkable teacher.
I can’t honestly say how much this book will appeal to those who lack a personal connection to New Orleans, but to present and past New Orleanians and to anyone who has worked with children in the aftermath of a disaster Sugarcane Academy is Highly Recommended,