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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

New Orleans after Katrina
2008 Summer Reading Program

The readings are in Adobe Acrobat format. Click on the book cover image to view the reading - not all readings remain available.

If you experience any problems, please contact the Office of the First-Year Experience at 518-580-8111 or


Reading Description

Breach of faith

Jed Horne's Breach of Faith chronicles the harrowing, and very personal, moments in which Hurricane Katrina barreled down upon the Crescent City. It is a journalistic narrative of fear, neglect, and tragedy. Horne is the editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Please click here for Part 2 of Breach of Faith.  (Part 1 is no longer available.)

The Control of Nature by John McPhee

There should be little doubt that the natural world was a--and perhaps the most--significant player in the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. "Atchafalaya," by John McPhee, is part of a collection of essays entitled The Control of Nature. Written almost twenty years before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, McPhee anticipates many of the geological, scientific, and engineering factors that contributed to the devastation. John McPhee has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1965.

Lessons Learned

The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned is the official report from the White House on the hurricane. It explores such issues as the stability of the levees prior to the catastrophe, the role of FEMA and other federal agencies in responding to the events, and the responsibility of the President as the single voice of a sovereign American people. The report, which was made public in February 2006, is meant in some sense to provide an alternative perspective from that of Michael Eric Dyson.

Langston Hughes Poems

Langston Hughes was one of the members of the Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of Black arts in New York City during the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance was made possible in part by the development of jazz as a major art form whose roots were in New Orleans Black culture. Hughes, like Gwendolyn Brooks in the generation after him, sought in some of his poems to capture the rhythms of jazz and of the blues. These poems are complex and layered in the ways that they represent people's experiences. They speak for all of humanity, but they also represent the particular lives and voices of Black individuals in their time. Rich in irony, lyrically powerful, they helped both to establish a tradition of Black poetry, and to put Black poets in the canon of American literature.

No Longer Available
Come Hell of High Water

Michael Eric Dyson, University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, is one of the leading public intellectuals in America. Many inside and outside the academy have praised his compelling--and equally provocative--work on race and class. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster combines Dyson's attention to methodological detail with his penchant for biting commentary. This reading, perhaps more so than the other, is meant to generate conversation and dialogue about the racial and class-based impact of the hurricane.


Mark C Gridley, Professor of Psychology at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, has written a primer on the ways to understand the nature and architecture of jazz music. Jazz Styles is one of the most popular textbooks in the field of jazz musicology, examining the history, power, and importance of the jazz movement. What is more, Gridley dissects the character and subtlety of this uniquely American art form.