Tinea's Reviews > There Is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina

There Is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster by Chester Hartman
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's review
Jan 13, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: enviro-justice, gender-sexuality, race-and-racism
Recommended for: those who want Katrina broken down and explained point by point

If you only read one book about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, this might be the one you should choose.

Each chapter explores in depth one aspect of the Gulf Coast before, during, and after the hurricane. After reading almost exclusively Katrina books & articles for the past month or two, I was surprised to find three very different chapters especially insightful: One on the much discussed topic of race, the one on the overlooked issue of the storm's impact on the elderly (holy shit), and one on the often protested but rarely explained subject of why and how one must fight for both low-income housing rights and ecological justice in neighborhoods where subsidized/low-income houses were marginalized onto land below sea level and polluted with toxic sludge. The chapter on oral history included some powerful quotes, but I wish it had spent less time naval gazing the idea of oral history and more time letting survivors tell their stories.

This anthology is very academic and kind of dry, but I found it compelling anyway. The main problem is that since each author focuses their chapter on one specific subject, the book comes off disjointed. You get a lot of "The hurricane affected [insert one identity here] worse than everyone else." And in a book that examines the racist structural causes of disaster, it was ridiculous to find the chapter on medicine repeatedly deny that any disparate medical treatment statistics after the hurricane were the result of racism. Come on now!

Other topics included public education, economic recovery plans, poverty and class, and gender. Aside from a deep analysis of New Orleans, this "before and after" approach on such a range of subjects acts as a good case study for issues that are pretty ubiquitous in US cities. It sorted out the big picture into smaller, more easily understood little pictures.

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