Louisiana is a state with a deep-rooted literary tradition, and the city of Monroe is no exception. From the renowned professor Alcée Fortier, who collected French-speaking children's stories told by former slaves, to Arna Bontemps, a poet, academic, librarian, and curator of the Harlem Renaissance, to James Lee Burke's beloved mystery novels, Monroe has produced some of the most celebrated authors in the state. The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans is an excellent way to honor one of Louisiana's renowned authors. The festival celebrates the vibrant gumbo of culture, people, languages, foods and traditions that thrive in Louisiana.
Book lovers have countless opportunities to explore the lives of the authors they admire in Louisiana. At Laura Plantation in Vacherie, visitors can explore a rare example of an operational Creole plantation with untouched rooms, family memories, and six intact slave quarters that take them back in time. It was here that Alcée Fortier began to collect the French-speaking children's stories told by former slaves about a rabbit named Compair Lapin. In 1894, Fortier published these stories in his book titled Louisiana Folktales.
Compair Lapin (intelligent rabbit) became known as Br'er Rabbit or the tales of Uncle Remus in the books of Joel Chandler Harris. When Arna Bontemps's family moved from Alexandria to Los Angeles as part of the post-war “Great Migration of Blacks from the South” in search of a better life for their family, Bontemps more than fulfilled this hope and dream. Today, the Arna Bontemps African American Museum in Alexandria celebrates the arts, culture, music, history and words of Central Louisiana. The museum is full of exhibits, events, performance hall and a year-round performance calendar.
In Cloutierville in Natchitoches Parish, visitors can explore the city eerily similar to the days of 1880 when Kate Chopin walked its streets. Any reader of Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying has witnessed the importance of food in his writings. The kitchen is a place of love and prepared food is a source of strength and a reflection of culture and family. One of Gaines' characters says that gumbo can be eaten at any time - try Cajun Louisiana gumbo at Point Coupée at restaurants like Morel's Restaurant.
New York Times best-selling author Mary Alice Monroe has written two books for children that complement her environmental themes for her novels. Her Lowcountry Summer trilogy follows three half-sisters and their grandmother - The Summer Wind, The Summer Girls, and The Summer's End. Monroe also wrote Time Is a River, an insightful novel that will transport readers to the seductive Southern landscape. Her first book for middle-grade readers is A Very Special Beach House.
Any modern mystery lover with a connection to Louisiana will recognize Louisiana's revealing French heritage on behalf of Dave Robicheaux from James Lee Burke's beloved mystery novels. Burke really took the time to interact with every person that spoke to her, and her genuine passion and enthusiasm for the topics of her books was inspiring. The wedding season has arrived in Mary Alice Monroe's next novel from her “distinctive, complex and endearing series Lowcountry Summer” (Charleston Magazine). The third book in the trilogy is The Summer's End, which follows three half-sisters united by love for their grandmother and the beauty and timeless traditions of the lowlands. Louisiana is home to some of America's most celebrated authors who have left an indelible mark on literature. From Alcée Fortier to Arna Bontemps to James Lee Burke to Mary Alice Monroe, visitors can explore Louisiana's literary heritage through festivals, museums, restaurants and more.
Whether you're looking for an exciting adventure or just want to relax with a good book, Louisiana has something for everyone.