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Travels with Mae

by Dr. Eileen M. Julien
Released: 2011

With a series of lyrical vignettes Eileen M. Julien traces her life as an African American woman growing up in middle-class New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s. Julien’s narratives focus on her relationship with her mother, family, community, and the city itself, while touching upon life after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Haunted by a colonial past associated with African presence, racial mixing, and suspect rituals, New Orleans has served the national imagination as a place of exoticism where objectionable people and unsavory practices can be found. The destruction of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath revealed New Orleans’ deep poverty and marginalized population, and brought a media storm that perpetuated the city’s stigma. Travels with Mae lovingly restores the wonder of this great city, capturing both its beauty and its pain through the eyes of an insider.

Eileen M. Julien is Professor of Comparative Literature, African American and African Diaspora Studies, and French and Italian at Indiana University Bloomington. She is Chairperson of the Department of Comparative Literature and author of African Novels and the Question of Orality (IUP, 1992).

Booksigning with Dr. Eileen M.Julien @ Antenna Gallery – Saturday, March 26, 2011 2:30pm – 4:30pm

“To travel with Mae is to be well-traveled indeed; Julien honors her mother’s spirit, her family’s strength, with this affectionate, graceful portrait.” —The Times-Picayune

“This is a book to love, to savor like one of the Julien family gumbos. . . . A wonderful portrait of midd…le-class blacks in a city usually portrayed by the poverty of its black population and the decadence of its whites. This is real life in New Orleans, in both its unique qualities and the universality of people in their common experiences, as well as a moving depiction of a loving relationship between a mother and a daughter.”
—Christine Wiltz, author of The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld

“Julien recalls a culture and space . . . recollected by those who knew it before and knew it as home.”
—Angeletta Gourdine, author of The Difference Place Make

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“Deeply moving, beautifully written stories about her family by an Afro-Louisiana Creole scholar. Although most of the people in her stories are no longer with us, they will now live on forever just as their indomitable culture lives on everywhere, not just in Louisiana.”
—Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, author of Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in Louisiana

“Travels with Mae” is a series of vignettes at once tender and full of doubt. Eileen Julien tells the story of her girlhood, young womanhood, and cultural and political awakening against the backdrop of New Orleans in the 1950’s and 60’s. Not only the story of the author’s coming of age, this is a loving portrait of family life. Julien gives an insider’s perspective on New Orleans culture. With her we attend Carnival balls and parades, family picnics and swimming parties, and survive hurricanes Betsy and Katrina. Along the way, we meet countless aunts, uncles and cousins, and are privy to family spats, her mother’s upstairs closet, and kitchens stretched from New Orleans to Washington, D.C., rural Louisiana to New York, Paris to Bordeaux and Dakar.

Equally impressive are the accompanying visuals. Chockfull of family photographs and reproductions of the brilliant paintings of Kalidou Sy, Julien serves up an interplay of words and images that makes Travels with Mae a compelling keepsake.”
—Brenda Marie Osbey, author of All Saints: New and Selected Poems and Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2005-07

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