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

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  494 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
"Displaying the intellectual rigor, political passion, and personal empathy that have won him acclaim and fans all across the color line, Michael Eric Dyson offers a searing assessment of the meaning of Hurricane Katrina. Combining a fresh look at the key players in the disaster with his deep knowledge of black migrations and government policy over decades, Dyson provides ...more
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jan 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 added it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this for class. I did a lot of skimming for this book but I think that if I have the time, I would definitely revisit it for a more thorough read. The book delves into the hesitation, incompetency and lack of preparation of the US government and FEMA in managing and sending aid to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. It documents the racist undertones that seem to have governed this response delay and the frustrating elements of bureaucracy and the top-down command-control system of manage ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The research was great, his view on theodicy often veered off into politics. He never addresses the issue biblically, which leaves his analysis purely religiously secularized.
Tiarah Flores
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informational and shocking to say the least. But then on the other hand nothing really surprises me anymore.
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Jill W
Oct 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chelsey Langland
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Melissa Dally
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ronald Wilcox
Hurricane Katrina took its toll on all of us who lived in its path in 2005 but especially those who were poor. The lack or slowness of response to the disaster by the Federal government is well presented in this book; this poor response is tied to the race and class of the majority of people trapped in New Orleans after the levees ruptured. Dyson dispels many of the rumored stories about the behavior of the people of New Orleans and explains the reasoning behind some of the behavior reported on ...more
Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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!
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 19, 2016 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.
Aug 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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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...
“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. ” 41 likes
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