My New Orleans, Gone Away: A Memoir of Loss and Renewal
"A heartfelt, intimate, and painfully honest account of the coming of age of one shy boy and of the exotic city he left behind, but will never forget. A story of the courage of breaking away and the "you are there" descriptions of places and people that make the reader part of this narrative of struggle and triumph."
-Barbara Goldsmith, author of the bestselling "Little Gloria, Happy at Last"
In this poignant and vivid memoir, Peter M. Wolf, a member of one of New Orleans's oldest Jewish families, recreates the sights, sounds, tastes and simultaneously provides an insider's look at this fabled city, so damaged and changing in the wake of Katrina. Reflecting the yearnings and anxieties of a generation that came of age after World War II, this is the iconic journey of a restless man who leaves the hometown he loves to discover the world and in so doing, to find himself.
Wolf recalls his idyllic though anxious southern childhood, the emotional remoteness of his nighttime-loving parents that leaves him with a tenuous sense of security. He turns to his neighborhood and school buddies, to the embracing warmth of his family's African-American housekeeper, and to the weekends he spends with his adoring grandparents at their home in Pass Christian on the gulf coast of Mississippi.
During undergraduate years at Yale, the author's close friends come to include Calvin Trillin, the humorist-to-be; Henry Geldzahler, the future celebrated art historian; and Gerald Jonas, who would become a writer for The New Yorker magazine. Each from a more traditional Jewish family, through exposure to these important people in his life, Wolf becomes acutely aware of his city's inflexibly stratified religious and racial structure.
After a year of medical school at Columbia, and continuing his journey of self-discovery, as he briefly works for his father's cotton brokerage, Wolf reveals the last vestiges of the cotton business in the south. In spite of a spicy love affair, his residence in the French Quarter, and growing prominence in his community, unwilling to remain in New Orleans, Wolf returns to the east to earn a doctorat and become an architectural historian, a profession in which he earns great distinction.
Written with humor and telling detail, My New Orleans offers direct and memorable insight into a lost period of America's evolution, turbulence and possibilities as unique and to-be-longed-for as the city of Wolf's memory.
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About the Author
Engaging...delightful....Wolf returns to the Big Easy after a protracted Yankee education at Exeter and Yale, joins his father's firm in the cotton trade, takes up lodgings on Burgundy Street at the edge of the French Quarter and hangs out at places the mere mention of which sends shivers of pleasure down my spine.--Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
Wolf's journey from inhibited child to dream-chaser is beautifully told, full of love for New Orleans, tradition, and family, all trumped by the angst-filled awakening that led him forward.--Publisher's Weekly
A fascinating story.--Kirkus Reviews
Reading this memoir we think about where we live, what these places mean to us, what they meant to our ancestors, and, of course, what they will mean to our progeny.--The East Hampton Star
Peter Wolf's "My New Orleans, Gone Away" is the triumph of a memorist with the eye of an architect and the heart of a poet. With admiration, and occasionally, awe, I shared the development of his feelings and taste. This may very well be a modest classic of that enchanted city's art, culture, lifestyle and vanishing monuments.--Sidney Offit, author of "Memoir of the Bookie's Son"
I loved it. It brings back great memories.--Walter Isaacson, author of "Steve Jobs"