Angels in the Wilderness: Young and Black in New Orleans and Beyond
by William Barnwell; images by Cheryl Gerber; Foreword by Lawrence Powell
Angels in the Wilderness is a collection of stories about young African Americans in New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as several individuals and organizations that mentor young adults in the Crescent City. The purpose of the book is simply to pass on the stories of young people; stories that need to be told to inform and inspire us all—black and white—in New Orleans and beyond.
From the Foreword:
This marvelous book is about life-changing stories, mostly by young black people who have seldom gotten a fair shake in life, let alone much of a second chance. They are poignant tales, often gripping. Some will amaze you, others grab you by the gut and refuse to let go. Most of the stories are about coming of age in New Orleans, a city that has learned to live with tragedy. New Orleans has been cast in several different lights over the years—as painted lady or sportsman’s paradox; as the murder-rate capital of these United States, or the central conveyor belt for Louisiana’s overstuffed jails and prisons. But one characteristic is easily overlooked: its irrepressibility. Resilience is practically tattooed on New Orleans’s soul. That stiff upper lip comes across in the stories William Barnwell persuaded his book’s interviewees to share with its readers . . . .
What’s so remarkable about this anthology is the willful banishment of anger. Rejection of revenge goes against the grain. The urge to strike back against violence, whether witnessed or experienced, can be all consuming. But these are remarkable people—mostly young, but some old; generally black, but a few white. And all of them have elected to bend their energies toward mitigating violence rather than fanning its flames.
For all of the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans over the years (and since Katrina there has been a gracious plenty), Angels in the Wilderness is an indispensable reminder that light can still pierce the darkness. It’s a book worth reading then contemplating.
–Lawrence N. Powell
Alex Haley once said that the most powerful phrase in the English language was, ‘let me tell you a story.’ Barnwell empowers others and deepens our sense of love and justice by letting those whose voices that are sometimes not heard tell us their stories. We should read this book daily and be inspired by it.
As I read this wonderful book, I cried. I cried because someone loves the people of New Orleans enough to seek out the stories that are the lives of a few mirroring the lives of many. My friend, William Barnwell has brought the skill of listening to a new level. One definition of the word listen is ‘paying attention to.’ By re-counting the experiences of youth and young adult African American New Orleanians, William pays attention to the current motivating and challenging influences of the city.
–Linetta J. Gilbert
William Barnwell is an Episcopal minister, teacher, and community advocate. The author of numerous books, he has ministered in Charleston, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. Barnwell and his wife Corinne have lived in the Crescent City since 1970; they have three adult children and six grandchildren.
Softcover, 248 pp., ©2017
September 19, 2017.