I had the joy of attending a book signing this weekend by an author who’s near and dear to my heart, Joyce King. She lives in Dallas, and I first became acquainted with her when I read her first book published in 2003 called Hate Crime about a racially-motivated death that happened in my hometown of Jasper back in 1998.
I wasn’t living in Jasper at the time of the incident, but moved there about the time that the trials began for the 3 men who had been arrested for the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. I found her book to be a pretty fair portrayal of my hometown and of the trial and not prone to racial sensationalism as was the first book published about the ordeal. The great irony about her book is that she’s an African-American, like the victim of the crime, and she cast Jasper in a favorable light. Conversely, the author of the first book written about Byrd’s death is Caucasian and painted a picture of Jasper as a hate-monging redneck town that never forgave or forgot the Civil War.
This past Saturday was the launch party of Joyce’s third book, Forgotten Hurricane: Conversations with My Neighbors. It’s a painful read at times, as she tells true stories of how Southeast Texans and Southwest Louisiana residents coped with Hurricane Rita. There are two stories of bus drivers who endured a 50-hour trek (without a break) from Beaumont in an attempt to evacuate those without other means of transportation. There are stories of brave Southeast Texans who lost everything in the storm and are determined to rebuild. There are stories chronicling the utter frustration and anger of those in emergency management who were trying to cope with a situation like none of them had ever previously experienced at a time when all the local (and many national) resources had been depleted as Southeast Texas took care of tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees a mere two weeks before the landfall of our very own hurricane.
There’s no finger-pointing in this book, merely stories of bravery and resiliency. If you want a real life view of what happens and what people think during a natural disaster, pick up a copy. And, if you happen to buy it, check out Chapter 14, featuring my brother, Jamie Gunter, as one of the Dukes of Newton.
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