Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster” as Want to Read:
Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  456 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
When Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, hundreds of thousands were left behind to suffer the ravages of destruction, disease, and even death. The majority of these people were black; nearly all were poor. The Federal government’s slow response to local appeals for help is by now notorious. Yet despite the cries of outrage that have mounted since ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 23rd 2006 by Basic Civitas Books (first published January 1st 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Come Hell or High Water, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Come Hell or High Water

Zeitoun by Dave EggersFive Days at Memorial by Sheri  FinkThe Infinite by Nicholas MainieriSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn WardThe Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley
Hurricane Katrina
6th out of 11 books — 11 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonTriangle by David von DrehleA Night to Remember by Walter LordIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteInto Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Books about Horrible Tragedies or Disasters
108th out of 126 books — 33 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,101)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 22, 2014 Zanna rated it liked it
All the facts and figures with careful critical analysis of the layered causes of the failure to deal with Katrina and the effect of the catastrophe for the (mainly) black & poor people of New Orleans.

While much of the book is pretty dry and mainly useful for reference from my point of view, Chapter 9 'Frames of Reference' tackled complex issues of race, class, racism and the media framing of the catastrophe of ingrained & structural anti-blackness. According to captions, while white 're
Jan 24, 2008 Shannon rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shannon by: Teacher
Come Hell or High Water by Michael Eric Dyson was a powerful and compelling book that captured the devestation, panic, racism, and over all grief that many victims experienced during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Dyson fills in the gaps of the missing stories during the terrible event, mishaps with in the Federal government and Fema, Bush's lack of respose to helping victims in need, and other politicians who failed to help the citizens of new orleans.

What I liked about this book so much was
Sep 14, 2016 Ami added it
Shelves: 2016
I saw a meme the other day that said, "On September 11, 2001, the Coast Guard coordinated the evacuation of 500,000 people from the area surrounding Ground Zero by creating a volunteer fleet of military, merchant, city and private vessels. It took just 9 hours and moved more people than the Dunkirk Evacuation at the start of WWII." Well, look what's possible when they're people who are cared about.

Michael Eric Dyson does a great job of explaining just why the mostly poor, mostly black people of
Jan 28, 2009 Gabriel rated it it was amazing
Extremely interesting book that explores that failures in preparation and response to hurricane Katrina. The bottom line is that New Oreleans was obviously ill prepared to handle such a powerful hurricane for various reasons. There is plently of blame to go around, but Dyson places a significant amount of blame on the bungling Bush adminstration for being indifferent to blacks and the poor. Secondly, by placing unqualified people (Mike Brown) in the agencies (FEMA) supposedly designed deal with ...more
Michael Dyson is hilarious in interviews, but it doesn't come across as well in print. Of course this is not a "funny" book, however Dyson's voice doesn't come through the way I hoped it would. I don't believe that nonfiction has to be dry because history is a story, just like any other, that should be told in a descriptive, engaging, and witty style. Dyson leans too hard on statistics and logistics; the story of Katrina gets lost in his retelling.

The book is still a worthwhile read, especially
Jan 13, 2008 Tinea rated it liked it
This is a very clear explanation of the racism that influenced the Hurricane Katrina disaster: why it was mostly poor African Americans who lived in low-lying, flooded area; why these people didn't evacuate before the storm; and why did the government delay its response for five days-- and then how come that response was above all military, not humanitarian.

I recommend this if you want to get a basic understanding of the structural causes of so many deaths.
Jul 19, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing
Very good investigative report. To go along with this see Spike Lee's 2 documentaries- when the levees broke and if God is willing and the creek don't shine.
Aug 08, 2008 Weavre rated it really liked it

By the end of the first chapter, I was thoroughly irritated with Dyson's analysis. He seemed to have an oversimplified perspective that saw black people as targeted victims of privileged whites, both ignoring the existence of impoverished people of other races and contradicting himself in acknowledging the existence of privileged blacks. I'm glad I kept reading, though: In Chapter 9, "Frames of Reference," he laid out exactly the kind of more nuanced analysis of the interrelationship o
Jun 05, 2007 James rated it really liked it
Who else wasn't glued to their television set, or the newspapers, or their internet, or whatever, last late August into early September? It's not everyday that we see a city destroyed by a combination of a hurricane and government ineptitude. It's the second major disaster in just four years in the United States, after the attacks on the World Trade Center that killed 2000 people. Hurricane Katrina and the lackluster FEMA response killed 1,836, plus 705 people unaccounted for, as of May 19th, 20 ...more
Jill W
Jan 28, 2008 Jill W rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jill by: Friend
After Hurricane Katrina occurred I want to know more about the city and which places were affected and I also wanted to know about the people of New Orleans. I had so many questions and I had no one to answer them. While reading this book I most of the questions I had were answered. For example why didn’t people leave, why did they stay if they knew Katrina was coming? The author tells the facts about racism, poverty and injustice during that rough time in those people’s lives. Those facts and s ...more
Feb 02, 2008 Lauren rated it really liked it
Wow - Michael Eric Dyson is *preaching* in this book. It's a somewhat painful read, as he goes minute by minute through the Katrina disaster and our government's various misteps that led to so much avoidable death and destruction. It's worth revisiting the details, though, considering how quickly Katrina and it's survivors left the national consciousness. He raises many important points about class and race and what we as Americans need to do not just in the face of a national crisis, but in our ...more
Chelsey Langland
Jul 22, 2013 Chelsey Langland rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
The author's basic premise is that poor people of color unfairly bore the brunt of the tragedy in Katrina because of decades of prejudice - a lack of response that was exacerbated by the Bush istration.

The book was written in 2006 and it feels very dated already (there was a passage which contains a quote about that sharp Senator Obama), and it's weird to read about the Bush istration in the present tense. There is still a lot of anger in the book, which is justified. And some of what he predict
Jan 19, 2016 Lenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dyson is a fantastic writer. He clearly details the absolute disinvestment in a Republican Administration of a government for the people, and it's consequent failure to help the people of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The last chapter on Justice, the afterword, is excellent too.
Jun 07, 2008 Melanie rated it it was amazing
After the very long weening-off process between myself and both national and current news programs, I began the trek of weening myself from books, articles and documentaries regarding Hurricane Katrina. But then Mr. Dyson (whom I've always had a respect for) came out with Come Hell or High Water and I had to pick it up. It's a quick read FULL of factual information on the devastation and aftermath of the storm on both the natural and the human sides. I particularly like the way Dyson puts Kanye ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Pascale rated it liked it
This book is a record of the government’s embarrassing ineptitude and lack of care for its citizens. The author examines the way race relations were at play during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how they influenced the government’s slow response in New Orleans, including the history of government intervention for natural catastrophes, relief efforts, who gets national attention (and who doesn’t), the media portrayal of the evacuees, how reactions to racial issues are perceived depending ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it
There is a lot of background info in this book, for people to better understand all the different aspects that led up to the disaster. Dr. Dyson defends Kanye West in an eloquent way that positively adds to the dialogue on the issue. His chapter on "Theodicy and Prophetic Faith" discusses the different perspectives on the role of God in the natural disaster. I can't say that I agree with all of his analysis or his lumping of black religion into the Christian sphere entirely, but it was an intere ...more
Melissa Dally
Mar 17, 2013 Melissa Dally rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
This was more commentary on how Hurricane Katrina was handled (badly!). There is discussion on if the difference between this and an earlier Florida hurricane that W basically tripped over himself to help out with was caused by race, class, or maybe both? I felt strongly initially that it was partially class and partially that he didn't think it likely that these would be people apt to vote for him in the future, but I can see the author's point about race.

The book touches on the whole idiotic
Sep 09, 2008 Jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, class
This book is a must read! Prior to reading this book, I knew that race and class played an important role in the evacuation/relief effort during Hurricane Katrina. However, I learned a lot more by reading this book and it again confirms my lack of trust in the government.

Overall, I liked this book and the way it was written. However, I felt like the author was on his soapbox preaching in the beginning and a little bit at the end. Other than that, it was great and definitely an important book to
Lauren Gommert
Jul 29, 2011 Lauren Gommert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was nothing more than a ridiculous attempt to place blame on anyone and everyone besides the people who should be blamed. Katrina was a horrific occurance but to blatantly state that the events that occured did so because of race is ignorant and wrong. Furthermore, Dyson seems to love to stereotype white Americans, while placing absolutely no blame on those individuals who refused to evacuate the area. In short...I hated this book and would gladly give it away!
Ashley Anderson
Mar 10, 2016 Ashley Anderson rated it liked it
This was a lot more political than I wanted it to be. But still enjoyable
Dec 06, 2007 Ariana rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I learned of this book after watching "When the Levees Broke" by Spike Lee about the disaster in New Orleans. This book was mind blowing - I learned so much about the racial bias of the governement. I have always known it is there but this book illustrates it perefectly. This is a book everyone should read, just to understand what happened to New Orleans in 2005.
Jan 09, 2008 Nick rated it really liked it
Not my favorite of the liberal professor/preacher's books, but a good one nonetheless. He does a great job breaking down in detail how race played a part in the governments pathetic response to Katrina. Although I had heard the general commentary of how bad Brownie and the boys fucked it all up, the gritty details outlined by Dyson blew me away.
Jaqueline Preciado
Jan 07, 2014 Jaqueline Preciado rated it liked it
Lots of information,but Dyson does phenomenal job uncovering the disparities during Hurricane Katrina.
Aug 30, 2007 Amy rated it liked it
Overall, Dyson made a clear connection between the federal government's slow response to those in need because of Hurricane Katrina and race. However, his tendency toward a dramatic writing-style somewhat made his statements less credible.

You could probably find a better book about Katrina.
Jun 13, 2007 Raina rated it really liked it
Shelves: readitlovedit
I got to hear the author of this book speak at my school's annual Diversity Symposium--wow! Dr. Dyson is a powerhouse of an intellect and social critic. An excellent, probing analysis of the role of race & poverty in America's response to the Katrina disaster.
Jul 26, 2007 Jannelle rated it liked it
I haven't learned anything new from this book that I didn't learn in Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke." That said, the book is interesting, an easy read for a current event non-fiction, and definitely important for understanding Hurricane Katrina.
Apr 29, 2014 Bob rated it it was amazing
A well written , step by step account of Katrina and it's aftermath. Colossal failure of relief "efforts" by the governments involved -- could not have been handled worse, especially since the storm threat was well anticipated.
Dec 14, 2009 Charlotte rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting look at Hurricane Katrina and the government's response, or lack thereof. I felt it dragged on longer than necessary and the points could have been made in less pages. A little slow. But interesting. And sad.
Sep 15, 2008 svnh added it
Shelves: nonfiction
i want to read this for a few reasons, but the primary motivation is to see whether or not this is another book driven by sensationalism or if it is critically valuable.

i'm a bit of a literary masochist, after all.
Oct 28, 2007 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book. Dyson puts Kanye West's famous remark into perspective. He also dissects why things went down the way they did in the immediate aftermath of Katrina.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 36 37 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
  • Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
  • Why New Orleans Matters
  • Down in New Orleans: Reflections from a Drowned City
  • Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
  • There Is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina
  • Voices from the Storm: The People of New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath
  • Not Just the Levees Broke: My Story During and After Hurricane Katrina
  • What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States
  • Letters from New Orleans
  • The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square
  • Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales
  • The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina--the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist
  • A People's History of Poverty in America
  • Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement
  • The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation
  • What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation
  • Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States
Michael Eric Dyson is an American academic, author, and radio host. He is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.
More about Michael Eric Dyson...

Share This Book

“Charity is no substitute for justice. If we never challenge a social order that allows some to accumulate wealth--even if they decide to help the less fortunate--while others are short-changed, then even acts of kindness end up supporting unjust arrangements. We must never ignore the injustices that make charity necessary, or the inequalities that make it possible. ” 40 likes
More quotes…