Archive for the 'Poor Man’s Provence' Category

Rheta Grimsley Johnson takes NPR’s Debbie Elliott on tour of Cajun Louisiana

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 by Suzanne La Rosa

Poor Man's Provence by Rheta Grimsley JohnsonNPR’s Debbie Elliott visited with syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson in Henderson, Louisiana recently, to learn about the place Rheta calls her second home. Henderson is the subject of a memoir by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, called Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, published by NewSouth Books. The All Things Considered program that resulted aired November 30.

In the interview, Elliott perceptively observes that if it was the Atchafalaya swamp that initially attracted Johnson, it’s the people of Henderson who keep her going back. “There was this unusual, almost anachronistic connection [the locals have] to the land that reminded me of my grandparents, peanut farming in south Georgia,” Johnson says. “Theirs was a way of life few have anymore. They prized time over money and family and friends over almost anything else. And I think they’ve got it right.” Junky, littered, and unplanned, with “abandoned pipelines and litter and oil streaks [visible] across a bayou’s slick surface,” Rheta also notes that Henderson is a reminder that we’re a “higher species with low-down habits.” Elliott thinks she’s got that right. She calls Poor Man’s Provence “an honest look at life in this working-class town.”

To hear the entire interview, visit the NPR website.

Poor Man’s Provence is available directly from NewSouth Books, from, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson Talks One Book One Community with Baton Rouge Media

Monday, August 31st, 2009 by Lisa Harrison

Baton Rouge media turned their spotlights on Rheta Grimsley Johnson recently as residents embarked on the One Book One Community summer read program featuring Johnson’s travel memoir Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana.

In a show airing July 31, Johnson told syndicated talk show host Jim Engster that she was “flabberagasted and honored” to have her book selected for the One Book program. She spoke about the luxury of being able to live in a community, Henderson, LA, for years before writing about it. Engster noted that Johnson’s “love of the area is conveyed quite eloquently” in her memoir.

Johnson also discussed with local WRKF radio Morning Edition host Saiward Pharr the fact that Poor Man’s Provence is selling well outside of Louisiana, and that the One Book program “filled a gap” by reaching her intended audience for this “love letter” to the people of Henderson.

In both interviews, Johnson discussed the recent unexpected death of her husband Don, and the support she received from the her Louisiana neighbors. She told the Baton Rouge Advocate, “I’ve made much of the fact in the book that the people in Henderson reminded me of what was important in life” and now “it’s as if they are teaching me about death.”

Poor Man’s Provence is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s Poor Man’s Provence Named Baton Rouge’s One Book One Community Summer Read

Monday, June 29th, 2009 by Suzanne La Rosa

NewSouth Books was honored to learn that Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s memoir, Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, was named by the Baton Rouge One Book Community (OBOC) Program as its summer 2009 reading selection. In his message at the OBOC kick-off event, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor Kip Holden said, “Let us become tourists in our own state and realize once again that whether it’s in the food or the music, [what we have in Louisiana] adds up to a magic that cannot be found anywhere else in this country.” He later added, “I’m hoping that while we read about Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s experiences of putting down roots in Cajun country, we might all find ourselves — and remember what a treasure we have in this great state.”

OBOC is a citywide book club based in Baton Rouge that aims to use a common reading experience to foster dialogue about intellectual and cultural issues. OBOC organizing sponsors include Baton Rouge Community College, East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Forum 35, LSU, Redstick Internet Services, Barnes & Noble, and The Greater Baton Rouge Literacy Coalition.

According to the OBOC press release, greater Baton Rouge area residents are encouraged to read Poor Man’s Provence and to join Rheta Grimsley Johnson for a free public presentation she’ll give on August 20 or to participate in other discussion events. The free event featuring the author happens at 7 pm on Thursday, August 20 at LSU’s Cox Communications Academic Center for Student Athletes; the Cox Center is located on the corner of Fieldhouse and N. Stadium Drives on the LSU Campus. Reading guides and additional information about Poor Man’s Provence and the OBOC program can be found online at

John Pritchard, Rheta Grimsley Johnson Nominated for Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Awards

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Andrew

The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters recently named NewSouth authors John Pritchard and Rheta Grimsley Johnson to a short list of nominees for their annual awards ceremonies. Previous winners included such celebrated novelists as Richard Ford and Shelby Foote.

John Pritchard, a college-level English teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, is nominated in the fiction category for his second novel The Yazoo Blues. The Yazoo Blues is the hilarious sequel to his critically acclaimed debut novella Junior Ray, both of which are set in Pritchard’s birthplace, the Mississippi Delta. Pritchard received high praise from Publisher’s Weekly, which awarded The Yazoo Blues a starred review, calling it “laugh out loud” and “insightful.”

Mississippi’s Rheta Grimsley Johnson is nominated in the non-fiction category for Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, which is equal parts memoir and travelogue of her time spent in Southwest Louisiana’s Cajun Country. She has covered the South for over three decades as a newspaper reporter and columnist, writing about ordinary but fascinating people, mining for universal meaning in individual stories. Syndicated today by King Features of New York, Johnson’s column appears in fifty newspapers nationwide.

Since 1978, The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters annually recognizes the greatest accomplishments in art, music, literature, and photography among current Mississippi residents, or former ones with continued, significant ties to the state. Winners in each category receive a cash award of $1,000. Judges for the awards are chosen from out of state and are prominent in their respective fields.

This year’s MIAL awards gala marks the 30th anniversary of the foundation and will be held on June 13, in Laurel, Mississippi at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, accompanied by an art exhibition of previous winners from the pasty thirty years.

The Yazoo Blues and Poor Man’s Provence are available directly from NewSouth Books or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Poor Man’s Provence Reviewed in Decatur Daily

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 by Ashley

Loretta Gillespie of The Decatur Daily has reviewed Poor Man’s Provence, popular syndicated columnist and NewSouth author Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s account of her life in Cajun Louisiana. Gillespie describes Johnson’s storytelling as “both humorous and heartwarming” and praises Johnson’s evocation of the sights, sounds, and “colorful characters” that pepper this text. Gillespie, too, notes the honest quality of Johnson’s narrative.

In the article, Gillespie writes that “[Johnson] doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that there is much to be improved on in her beloved Henderson, but rather tells the good with the bad, and professes to have learned more about herself than she has about her Cajun friends. She counts it as a privilege to live among them.” Gillespie concludes, “This is a wonderful book, told by a master storyteller, in a manner as down to earth as the people she writes about.”

Read the full review at the Decatur Daily website. Loretta Gillespie’s website is

Poor Man’s Provence is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online and local booksellers.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson Featured in Montgomery Advertiser

Monday, March 17th, 2008 by Mary Katherine

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,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Read Excerpts from Rheta Grimsley Johnson's Poor Man's Provence

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

NewSouth Books celebrates the upcoming release of noted columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s book Poor Man’s Provence with special excerpts from the book.

Visit NewSouth’s Poor Man’s Provence book page to read an excerpt from the book, including Rheta’s preface, the introduction by writer and NPR contributor Bailey White, and Rheta’s tale “The Tool Shed Reading Club.”

In Poor Man’s Provence, Rheta recounts how she fell in love with Cajun Louisiana, bough a second home there, and set in planting doomed azaleas and deep roots. She writes about an assortment of beautiful people in a homely little town called Henderson, right on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp. As Bailey White notes, “Both Rheta’s readers and the people she writes about will be comfortable, well fed, highly entertained, and happy they came to poor man’s Provence.”

Poor Man’s Provence will be available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer in February 2008.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson Talks Upcoming NewSouth Book

Monday, March 19th, 2007 by Brian Seidman

Columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, author of the upcoming Poor Man’s Provence from NewSouth Books, spoke this past Thursday at the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s monthly Architreats program. Darryn Simmons of the Montgomery Advertiser wrote, “Johnson answered questions from die-hard fans in the audience that religiously read her weekly column, which appears Mondays in the Montgomery Advertiser. She also kept the crowd laughing as she told stories about her career.” From the article:

Johnson is currently working on a book about the Cajun culture in Louisiana, [Poor Man’s Provence].

“It’s the most different place you can go without a passport,” she said.

Johnson said she found a number of similarities between the French-influenced culture there and the rest of the South, including a common obsession with art and food.

“Where else do you spend hours on preparing a meal besides Paris and Montgomery?” she said.

See the full article at the Montgomery Advertiser website.

Poor Man’s Provence will be available in Spring 2007 from NewSouth Books. For more information, call NewSouth directly at (866) 639-7688.