Read what THNOC reads! Join us as we read and discuss books related to the history of New Orleans. Participate in virtual book discussions with staff, authors, and fellow readers! 

Our founders, Kemper and Leila Williams, demonstrated a keen sense of civic responsibility to preserve the history and culture of New Orleans. Sometimes that means that it is our mission to provoke discussion as well. In that spirit, we present the Fine Print Book Club (FPBC) and we invite you to read alongside THNOC staff as we aim to fulfill our founders’ mission. 

The FPBC is an informal learning program intended to promote dialogue and connections within our community through shared reading. We will meet approximately six times per year, but you can come, go, and participate as you please. Books and topics will vary from popular to academic, but each reading will center upon building and reevaluating our knowledge of New Orleans history and culture. The schedule will be announced well in advance so that everyone has plenty of time to find and read the book. We will send discussion prompts to facilitate dialogue along the way. 

Participation in the Fine Print Book Club is free, but participants are expected to obtain their own copy of each title, and registration is required. Sessions will be conducted on Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link. 

Please email BookClub@hnoc.org for more information on the Fine Print Book Club.

St. James Cheese Company New Orleans
St. James Cheese Company has curated a signature THNOC cheese and wine box option for all registrants for The Fine Print Book Club. Details available in your registration confirmation email.

 


CALENDAR

Cover of Monumental: Oscar Dunn and his Radical Fight in Reconstruction LouisianaMARCH

Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at 7 p.m. Central Time

Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana by Brian K. Mitchell, Barrington S. Edwards, and Nick Weldon

Monumental tells, for the first time, the incredible story of Oscar Dunn, who rose from slavery to become America’s first Black lieutenant governor and acting governor.

The culmination of years of research by one of Dunn’s own descendants, Brian K. Mitchell, this graphic history reveals groundbreaking details about an American icon overlooked for generations. Emancipated at age ten, Dunn worked as a plasterer and musician before opening an agency to assist freedmen, who later came out in force to elect him lieutenant governor of Louisiana in 1868. Dunn championed universal male suffrage, civil rights, and integrated public schools—radical stances that might have contributed to his mysterious death in office. New Orleans mourned him with one of the largest funerals in its history, but a proposed monument to Dunn never materialized, and the earliest scholars of the Reconstruction era relegated him to the shadows of history. No longer.

Illustrator Barrington S. Edwards breathes life into Mitchell’s scholarship, and additional essays and other materials explore the scenes in even greater depth. Monumental recounts a uniquely American story about determination, scandal, betrayal—and how one man’s principled fight may have cost him everything.

Monumental is the first graphic history to be published by The Historic New Orleans Collection, and it is now available for purchase from The Shop at The Collection, independent book stores, and major online retailers. Registration for this event, which will feature Brian K. Mitchell and Nick Weldon, is now open. Discussion prompts will be posted at a later date. 

REGISTER NOW

BUY THE BOOK

ORDER THE MARCH CHEESE BOX

DONATE MONUMENTAL TO LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

 

In our upcoming one-hour discussion, we’ll only be able to scratch the surface of topics we could cover in this book. Let the following prompts and concepts guide your reading as we prepare for our virtual book club.

 

Prompts

  • What do you think about the choice to tell Oscar Dunn’s story for the first time as a graphic novel?
  • Do you have any favorite panels or pages?
  • How did this book challenge your conceptions of the Reconstruction period and Louisiana history?
  • How would you characterize Oscar Dunn’s political legacy?
  • Who are the primary antagonists in this story? In what ways do these individuals reflect larger issues and struggles of the Reconstruction period?

 

Concepts

  • Historical memory
  • Political organizing
  • Racial violence
  • What does it mean to “reconstruct” a society?

 

Cover of Ernie K-Doe: The Emperor of New OrleansJUNE

Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at 7 p.m. Central Time

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel with a foreword by Peter Guralnick

The Fine Print Book Club’s next discussion will focus on the second volume from THNOC’s Louisiana Musicians Biography Series, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans (2012), with author Ben Sandmel.

Born in New Orleans’s Charity Hospital in 1936, Ernie K-Doe came of age in a still-segregated South. In May 1961, when he was only 25 years old, K-Doe became the first New Orleans artist to top both Black (R&B) and white (pop) charts with his hit “Mother-in-Law.” His reign was just beginning, but in its broad outlines, K-Doe’s story parallels that of his beloved, beleaguered city.

He rose: Billboard raves, rock-star parties, a string of early hits that remain local staples. He fell: extravagant spending, go-nowhere releases, and years lost to alcohol. And he rose again in a magical second act: a radio show with a cult following, a new generation of protégés, and a fresh lease on life and love. He weathered storms and lingered long after most considered him down for the count. In the end, he literally rose from the dead: a lifelike statue of K-Doe held court at his castle, the Mother-in-Law Lounge, for years after his 2001 passing. Ultimately, Ernie K-Doe believed in himself, and he inspired confidence in others. His core message was the indomitability of the human spirit, the belief that all things are possible with faith and motivation.

Join us for a discussion with author and journalist Ben Sandmel and THNOC Editor Molly Reid Cleaver, as we explore K-Doe’s impact on the music industry and Sandmel’s experiences creating an intimately framed portrait of a larger-than-life figure. Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is available for purchase from The Shop at The Collection, independent booksellers, and national retailers. It’s also available through many Louisiana public libraries.

REGISTER NOW

BUY THE BOOK

ORDER THE JUNE CHEESE BOX

 

Most of our book club discussions last about 60–75 minutes, allowing us only to scratch the surface of topics we could cover. To help you prepare, consider the following questions as you read the book.

 

  • How might Antoinette be considered the heroine of Ernie’s life saga?
  • How did the opening of K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge facilitate a comeback for Ernie’s career?
  • What made K-Doe’s effigy, and its frequent public appearances, a distinctly New Orleans phenomenon?
  • Does anyone have personal stories/encounters with Ernie or Antoinette that they’d like to share?

We are deeply grateful to have you as a part of the THNOC community. If you are able, we hope you will consider becoming a member or making a donation to help sustain the Fine Print Book Club and programs like it.