Gwen Roland Writes about Life on Bayou Chene

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Postmark Bayou Chene coverBBy Mia Freneaux
    Many may recall Gail Carpenter, whose family lived on Core Lane.  Gail, barefoot in all weathers and riding her big red horse everywhere, was a familiar sight along Central roads growing up.  She graduated from Central High School in 1966 and went on to become much praised author Gwen Roland.  Gwen recently returned to the Central area for her high school reunion and to attend a book signing event at Cavalier House Books, owned by Michelle Badeau Cavalier, a 2004 graduate of Central High School, and her husband John.  Obviously, Central High School has had a strong literary influence on at least two of its graduates!
    Gwen wrote a memoir of her experiences living for 8 years on a houseboat in Bloody Bayou in the Atchafalaya Swamp.  Entitled Atchafalaya Houseboat, it was published in 2006 by LSU Press.  The book contains photographs taken by the then-unknown C.C. Lockwood, who went on to sell them to National Geographic.  When National Geographic published its “100 Best Pictures Unpublished” many years later, it included one of C.C.’s photos, which stimulated a new interest in life in the swamp.  LPB aired “Atchafalaya Houseboat”, based on Gwen’s book, in 2007.
    “Readers of my memoir kept asking for more details about daily life back when Bayou Chene was a real community,” Gwen shared, “And, to tell the truth, I was just as curious as they were.  The old stories that I had heard all of my life begged to come alive with the smell of freshly tarred nets, the thump of a log against a houseboat’s hull, the heft of wet petticoats pulling into the current. I wanted to read a novel that would sweep me away to that place and time, so I anchored those yarns with research and then set my imagination free to fill in the blanks. The result is Postmark Bayou Chene, set in 1907. ”
    Published by LSU Press and released in November of last year, Postmark Bayou Chene has received glowing reviews and praise for the author’s ability to recreate a lifestyle long gone but such an integral part of Louisiana’s history.  It is also a part of Gwen’s personal history – her great-grandfather was postmaster of the Bayou Chene post office.  The love of family, the support of a close-knit community, the hardships of life lived very near to the bone are all beautifully depicted by this skilled narration, which one reader insisted should be made mandatory reading by high school students.  In recreating the life of a community essentially gone by the 1920’s, Gwen has given its residents a loving homage and guaranteed their stories will not be forgotten.
    Both of Gwen’s books may be found at Cavalier Books, located at 100 North Range Avenue in the Denham Springs Antiques Village. 225-664-2255.


1 Comment

  1. Patty

    June 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Wonderful read!! Makes you feel like you are there. She writes so well, you can almost smell the food and see all of the boats on the bayou! The people in the book become your friends, you are in their lives. Loved both books!!!

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