Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2005 Issue

In Her Angry Path; Hurricane Katrina vs. Bookstores<br>Part One


Hurricane Katrina heads for New Orleans.

By Karen Wright

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, my question was, what, if anything, can we as booksellers - comrades in arms, or perhaps arts would be a better word - do to help our fellow booksellers who were in Katrina's angry path?

This from the American Booksellers Association CEO Avin Mark Domnitz: "There has been a Bookseller Relief Fund started to assist booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Contributions to the fund will be accepted, and ABA is seeding the relief fund with an opening donation of $25,000. Checks should be made payable to Bookseller Relief Fund and sent to ABA's office at 200 White Plains Road, Tarrytown, NY 10591. Please write "Bookseller Relief" on the outside of the envelope. "Our hearts go out to all those devastated by Katrina, and we want to do whatever we can to help. We know many in the book industry feel the same way, and are looking for ways to offer assistance."

"Several stores from around the county have also indicated their willingness to house and/or employ booksellers whose stores are unlikely to be able to reopen anytime soon. For a list of offers, go to www.bookweb.org/read/8067. Anyone willing to take in or to employ a displaced bookseller is asked to contact ABA's Director of Special Projects, David Walker, at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6612 or davidw@bookweb.org."

I checked in with David Walker of the American Booksellers Association and he put me in touch with two different booksellers affected by Katrina. One store was lucky and survived almost unscathed, the other was essentially disintegrated. Here is the story we gleaned from Tom Lowenburg whose store survived one of Mother Nature's nastiest temper tantrums.

We felt a ray of hope for southern booksellers when we got a press release that said "Octavia Books, co-owned by Tom Lowenburg, is back. Octavia Books is the first book store selling new books to reopen in the Greater New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina. We are determined to help residents return to a normal life, and for most of them that means some form of relaxation, and entertainment after non-stop clean-up of homes and businesses."

We called Tom in New Orleans and queried him about some of his experiences and thoughts on this tragedy.

Q: Tom, how long have you lived in New Orleans?
A: All my life. I grew up here, though I have traveled elsewhere.

Q: Have you experienced any other hurricanes?
A: As a child, Hurricane Betsy was memorable. That was about 1964 or 65 when I was in third grade. We missed a bit of school, but it was nothing like this. I was not here when Camille struck, but we saw a lot of destruction for years afterwards between Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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