NewSouth Books author Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been profiled in the Montgomery Advertiser for her new book Poor Man’s Provence. In the article by Robyn Litchfield, Johnson describes her love for Cajun country, particularly Henderson, Louisiana, the inspiration for the essays in her book. She says, “I’m uneasy about pretending to understand a culture that is not my own. I’ll qualify it by saying that I’m not an authority … This is just a love story, my love affair with this place, a work-a-day town where they still make their living in the swamp.” From the article:
Several years ago, Williams and NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa approached Johnson about writing a book.
“Luckily for us, she had these Louisiana stories rattling around in her subconscious, so our expression of interest was an opportunity for her to put them on paper and expand and shape them into a book,” he said.
Reflecting on the essays in “Poor Man’s Provence,” Williams said his favorite passages involve the neighborhood urchins Johnson adopted and describes so movingly in “The Tool Shed Reading Club.”
“If you can get to the end of that chapter with a dry eye, I don’t want to meet you,” he said.
These neighborhood children, Johnelle and Jeanette Latiolais and others have become very important to Johnson and her husband through the years. Henderson has charmed its way into their lives. One of their favorite spots is the bait shop, of all places, where you’ll find a bunch of old men sitting around talking about the fish that got away.
The neatest thing about it, though, is that these old men speak in French. Such scenes are just too much for a self-described Francophile to resist.
Johnson has also come to appreciate the music and the food — particularly shrimp etouffée and her best friend’s homemade smothered turtle. (She swears it’s delicious!)
“They literally don’t waste anything,” Johnson said. “And they could take old shoe leather and make it taste good.”
That’s just one of the things Johnson has learned since discovering the place.
As she writes, “I’m happier — better, if you will — for having found Henderson.”
Read the full article from the Montgomery Advertiser
Poor Man’s Provence is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.