Jan 17

A Lifelong Love of Mardi Gras

Brian J. Costello is the author of the new book Carnival in Louisiana: Celebrating Mardi Gras from the French Quarter to the Red River.

As other Louisiana cultural historians will doubtless be, I am indebted to the foresight of LSU Press and its wonderful staff for agreeing to publish my manuscript Carnival in Louisiana: Celebrating Mardi Gras from the French Quarter to the Red River (February 2017). This first-known attempt to document all of Louisiana’s Carnival celebrations goes beyond the customary publications and print and media accounts that have focused mainly on Greater New Orleans’ world-famed celebration, plus some emphasis on the colorful Courir du Mardi Gras events of rural Southwest Louisiana.

Carnival and its climax of Mardi Gras, with its street parades, masked balls, street masking and myriad other forms of pre-Lenten revelry have been ingrained on my psyche and have provided for much of my civic and cultural participation since my earliest years. A native and lifelong resident of the old Creole French community of New Roads and an 11th generation Louisianan, I witnessed my first Mardi Gras parades in my home town at the age of five, in 1972, and have never missed one since. The success of New Roads’ duo of parades, the first known to be established as charitable fundraisers, became a primary concern when I accepted the post as chairman of the New Roads Lions Carnival parade in 1993.

In my teenage years, I experienced my first New Orleans parades and, shortly thereafter, those of Lafayette, Thibodaux and Houma. Expansion of Louisiana’s parading calendar drew me to other parades and activities in Livonia, Maringouin, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge and Batchelor among other communities. Meanwhile, since the age of 12, I began to collect newspaper accounts and read all of the books I could find on the subject of Carnival and began to amass a collection of articles, parade and ball programmes, doubloons and glass beads, old ball favors, ducal decorations and vintage photos kindly given me by family, friends and strangers form near and far.

Assuming the journalism profession in 1987 and beginning to author books in 1993, I have devoted considerable attention to the history and traditions of Carnival in Louisiana. My membership in New Orleans krewes allowed me to ride in parades and participate in balls in the Carnival City while continuing to promote New Roads’ Mardi Gras traditions and supporting the parades and balls in several other cities and towns. I am blessed that my wife, Mary, has been of support in my various endeavors, and has accompanied me to parades, balls and other Carnival events since before the time of our marriage in 2000.

Having conducted research since 1979 on Louisiana’s Carnival history and traditions, I thought the time had come by 2015 to put the fruit of my labors into manuscript form and offer it to a publisher of great repute, namely LSU Press. Through the kind editing assistance of Mrs. Margaret Lovecraft and coordination with many of the Press’ talented and kind staff, I am confident that we have produced a work of lasting value that pays homage to one of Louisiana’s richest cultural assets, in its many manifestations and locations throughout the Carnival State.

Place an order for Carnival in Louisiana through our website before Feb. 28 and get 30% off. Use code 04THIRTY at checkout.

Jun 12

Renowned Photographer Richard Sexton Captures Region’s Distinct Landscapes and Heritage


Contact: Erin Rolfs, LSU Press Book News

New Roads and Old Rivers: Louisiana’s Historic Pointe Coupee Parish

Baton Rouge, LA—”New Roads and Old Rivers,” available in September 2012, reveals the natural and cultural vitality of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, as seen in the stunning photographs of Richard Sexton, with text by Randy Harelson and Brian Costello. Pointe Coupee is one of the oldest settlements in the Mississippi Valley, dating to the 1720s. French for “a place cut off,” the name refers to the area’s three oxbow lakes, separated from the Mississippi over centuries. Edged by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, Pointe Coupee remains a land rich in Creole heritage, distinct in geographical beauty, and abounding in historic homes and farms.

Continue reading →

May 11

Naturally Phenomenal Happenings

Margaret Lovecraft, Acquisitions Editor

Tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding—it has been a volatile spring in the U.S. and worldwide.

On May 18 here in Baton Rouge, we saw the Mississippi River crest at 45 feet, the highest level since the historic flood of 1927. Without the levees, Baton Rouge would be inundated at a river level of 35 feet. As William Percy, in Lanterns on the Levee, recorded in the year 1927, “The greatest flood in American history was upon us. We did not see our lands again for four months.” In 2011, we are depending on those levees to hold!

Then for more meteorological excitement, on June 1, hurricane season begins. This year will be one to watch no matter what, according to Barry Keim, Louisiana’s state climatologist and coauthor of Hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico (which is full of fascinating data and history, by the way). The U.S. coastline has not been hit by a major hurricane (meaning a category 3 or higher when it comes ashore) since Wilma hit southern Florida in 2005. That’s the good news. But the U.S. has also never—since official storm record-keeping began—gone more than five years in a row without being hit by a major hurricane. So we’ll either set a new record this season or we’ll see something big land somewhere on our coastline. Those of us near the Gulf Coast favor the record-breaking alternative.

Other than floods and thoughts of future hurricanes, spring is a glorious season in Louisiana, with ideal temperatures and riotous flowers and green everywhere. In the relatively quiet offices of LSU Press, the serene green covers of four new regional books greet the eye. Probably it is a coincidence that these books all have green-hued jackets—created by different designers at different times.

Ray Neyland’s Field Guide to the Ferns & Lycophytes of Louisiana, a slim paperback, transports us to a world of delicate greenery—and other colors too. Louisiana’s amazingly large array of ferns, the second largest in the U.S., varies in size and appearance far beyond the front-porch potted kind.

Lake Douglas’s Public Spaces, Private Gardens explores the rich history of New Orleans’s urban greenscapes. Audubon Park, City Park, Congo Square, Jackson Square, secluded gardens, and even the neutral grounds—we appreciate and enjoy them, of course, but rarely consider how they have developed over centuries. A multiethnic collaboration, the designed landscapes of New Orleans are unique in the U.S.

Spring can unleash the desire to explore, and the treasures and surprises of the local region called Acadiana—22 parishes in size—are impossible to exhaust. Historic homes, pastoral countryside, essential waterways, wildlife, townlife, music, cuisine, and churches—just to mention a few highlights. Now is a good time to visit—in person or via the new book Acadiana, by historian Carl Brasseaux and photographer Philip Gould.

A more far-flung adventure may be had in Look Away, Dixieland, by James B. Twitchell. I doubt you’ll want to retrace by car this road trip from Waycross, Georgia, to Coushatta, Louisiana, but why should you? It’s more fun to drive it with Twitchell, and you don’t have to pay for gas. Part travelogue, mystery, history, tragedy, and comedy, the book’s subtitle says it all: A Carpetbagger’s Great-Grandson Travels Highway 84 in Search of the Shack-up-on-Cinder Blocks, Confederate-Flag-Waving, Squirrel-Hunting, Boiled-Peanuts, Deep-Drawl, Don’t-Stop-the-Car-Here South.


Aug 08

New Danny Heitman video

Danny Heitman and his book, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, were featured on a news story last night on WAFB Channel 9 (Baton Rouge).  Click here to watch the video.  Great job, Danny!

Jul 08

Danny Heitman interview (video)

Danny Heitman, author of A Summer of Birds:John James Audubon at Oakley House, was interviewed on 2une In (WBRZ, Baton Rouge) this morning.  Watch him give an overview of the book as well as discuss his reason for writing it:  Danny Heitman on 2une In (3:05)

Jul 08

Heitman’s bird book garners a lot of attention

Danny Heitman’s A Summer of Birds is garnering a lot of attention. Read the recent reviews in Living Bird magazine and the New Orleans
. Also be sure to catch Danny on Channel 2 / WBRZ’s 2uneIn this
Friday morning.

Apr 08

LSU Press author Larry Powell elected as SAH Fellow

Congratulations to LSU Press author Lawrence N. Powell, who was recently elected as a Fellow of the Society of American Historians.  Fellows are chosen in recognition of the literary and scholarly distinction of their historical writing.   LSU Press recently published The New Orleans of George Washington Cable: The 1887 Census Office Report, edited with an introduction by Mr. Powell.   

Apr 08

The News & Observer spotlights Yellow Shoe Fiction

The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) recently ran a great feature on LSU Press and its Yellow Shoe Fiction series.  Click here to read the full article.

Apr 08

Why Poetry Matters

Just in time for April’s observance of National Poetry Month, LSU Press author Danny Heitman has published an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor arguing for the continued importance of poetry. “While I’m not a poet myself, I’ve really deepened my appreciation for poetry over the years by reading the exceptional, Pulitzer Prize-winning line of poetry published by LSU Press, and that, in no small part, is why I try to promote poetry through national commentaries such as this one,” Heitman said of the op-ed. Readers can check out the piece here.

Although Heitman isn’t a poet, his new LSU Press title, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, has been hailed for its poetic sensibility. Nationally renowned historian Neil Baldwin praised the book as “satisfying and artful: local history as poetic metaphor.”

Apr 08

Heitman in Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Star includes Danny Heitman’s A Summer of Birds in its list of recommended titles from "the kind of presses who get it all done with perhaps a dozen people instead of hundreds." Read the article here.