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Recommended books on Cajun Life,
Music and Culture

in association with Amazon.com Books
There are a wealth of books on the culture, music, people and land of Acadiana. First, I'll provide a section on the music of Acadiana, then one on authors of particular interest, followed by a miscellaneous list of recommended books. This list should grow regularly.

We've made it easy, safe and secure to purchase any of these books online through links to Amazon.com Books, "Earth's largest bookstore", with over 1 million titles on hand. Click any highlighted book title to order it through Amazon.com. If a title I recommend is not available through Amazon.com, I'll try to include mail-order information.


Cajun, Creole, zydeco and swamp pop music

Bernard, Shane K. Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues, University of Mississippi Press, 1996.
Undeservedly overshadowed by the fame of Cajun and zydeco music in America today, "swamp pop" (rock 'n roll and R&B played by the sons of Cajun musicians) is still very popular in Louisiana. Author Bernard, whose father Rod is a swamp-pop pioneer, writes the first book to concentrate solely on this genre.

Broven, John. South to Louisiana
British-born Louisiana music fan and scholar Broven has written a marvelous history of Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop, and New Orleans music, with the loving eye of an insider-outsider, who sometimes can better appreciate what we've got than we can ourselves.

François, Raymond. Yé Yaille, Chère!: Traditional Cajun Dance Music
A collection of hundreds of Cajun songs, with music and lyrics. Thunderstone Press, 123 Florida Court, Lafayette, LA 70503.

Nyhan, Pat with Brian Rollins and David Babb. Let the Good Times Roll: A Guide to Cajun & Zydeco Music
A comprehensive guide to Cajun and zydeco recordings, pretty much everything that's in print today, and even rare and hard-to-find recordings. With commentaries and brief histories on every artist, and an introduction by Michael Doucet dit Beausoleil, you'll find this an invaluable resource. I had a few quibbles with the "Top 10" lists in the various sections, but hey, you'll never get Cajuns to agree on anything anyway. :-)

Savoy, Ann. Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People
A definitive, indispensible work. Over 100 Cajun songs, transcribed with lyrics; interviews with musicians, vintage photographs, notes on performance, playing and singing, and much much more. Keep an eye peeled for Volume 2, 10 years in the making and due whenever Ann finishes it.

Bluebird Press
P. O. Box 941
Eunice LA 70535 USA.

Ann is married to Cajun musician and accordion-builder Marc Savoy, is a Cajun music historian, researcher and writer, as well as a full-time musician (locally, with Marc and many other local musicians, and as part of the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band) and mother of four. She and Marc live outside Eunice, LA.

Tisserand, Michael. The Kingdom of Zydeco
The first book to be written solely on this exciting dance music from the black Creoles of Louisiana, tracing its development from the first recorded Creole music in the 1920s through today. Due for publication in January 1998.

Books on the Cajun French Language by Monsignor Jules O. Daigle

Msgr. Daigle spent 25 years compiling and finally publishing a dictionary of Cajun French, and it's an astonishing work of linguistics by a non-linguist (although he did speak eight languages). His work was invaluable in the preservation of Cajun langauge and culture. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on the telephone on several occasions during my research for my graduate thesis. Msgr. Daigle passed away in 1998 at the age of 98.

A Dictionary of the Cajun Language, Swallow Press, 1984.
An astonishing work of linguistic scholarship, particularly since it was done by a Cajun diocesan priest from Welsh, Louisiana and not a professional linguist. Essential for anyone interested in Cajun French.

Cajun Self-Taught, Swallow Press, 1992.
Instructions on learning and speaking the language on an elementary level. Dialects, phonetics, basic phrases, verbs, common expressions, and much, much more.

Other Books on Cajun Language

Landreneau, Raymond Lee. The Cajun French Language, Chicot Press, 1990.

Rice, James. The Cajun Alphabet, Pelican Publishing, 1991.
An excellent children's book, in which Gaston the Green-Nosed Alligator provides a practical lesson in elementary Cajun French. Illustrated.

Books by Barry Jean Ancelet

Musiciens Cadiens et Crèoles: The Makers of Cajun Music, with photographs by Elemore Morgan, Jr.
Outstanding collection of interviews with and articles about some of the preeminent Cajun and creole musicians of southwest Louisiana, some of whom are no longer with us but all of whom are a strong influence today. Bilingual, in French and English. Louisiana State University Press

Cajun Country, with Jay Edwards and Glen Pitre
A broad examination of traditional Cajun culture: cooking, music, storytelling, architecture, arts and crafts, and festivals, as well as traditional occupations such as hunting, fishing and trapping. University Press of Mississippi

Cajun and Creole Folktales: The French Oral Tradition of South Louisiana
An amazing book, a very rich compendium of folk tales documenting the abundant lore and storytelling prevalent in the French culture of southern Louisiana, with side-by-side French transcriptions and English translations. University Press of Mississippi

Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development, University of Southwestern Louisiana Press, 1989.

Capitaine, Voyage Ton Flag, University of Southwestern Louisiana Press, 1989.

Books by Greg Guirard

Greg's a good friend of mine, a photographer, teacher, writer, naturalist and crawfisherman. He grew up just outside the Atchafalaya Swamp Basin, between the towns of Henderson and Catahoula, and has a marvelous eye for the landscape, and a deep insight into the people of the Atchafalaya. His books are available for purchase online here, are in some Louisiana bookstores, or you can write him directly for the one book not available online:

Greg Guirard
1470 Bayou Mercier Road
St. Martinville, LA 70582 USA
Tel (318) 394-4631

Photographic prints from the books are also for sale.

Seasons of Light in the Atchafalaya Basin, with two short stories by William Faulkner
Greg's first book, which struck me as soon as I first saw it in 1984. Stunningly beautiful photography. He says, "In my photography I have sought to capture the unusual variety in the intensity and quality of light and color as they are filtered through and reflected by the environment of the Atchafalaya Basin. The variations in light and color are frequently so striking from day to day that one might think the seaason itself has changed overnight ... My purpose is to reveal the beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin to people who have never seen it or who have seen it without looking carefully, in the hope that a great deal of interest might be generated to help keep the Basin as it is for everyone, including the hundreds of fisherman and trappers, most of them French-speaking Cajuns like myself, who depend on the area for their livelihoods."

Cajun Families of the Atchafalaya: Their Ways and Words
This book is the result of more than five years of research and photography by Greg. It's a cultural documentary, with 143 beautiful duotone photographs, of the people -- mostly French-speaking Cajuns -- who earn their livelihood by fishing, crabbing, crawfishing, trapping, and hunting alligators, turtles and bullfrogs in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin.

It is an attempt, by an insider, to chronicle these Cajuns' ideas, attitudes and dreams; their struggle with the river, the seafood market and with changing times. Their language is here in the form of interviews, taped and transcribed by the author. This book has been recently revised, with French translations and additional photographs.

The Land of Dead Giants, illustrated by Kate Ferry
Greg's first piece of published fiction, a short novel for all ages about a young Cajun boy growing up in the Atchafalaya, in a time where the old way of life is beginning to give way to the new. Available directly from Greg via mail-order.

Atchafalaya Autumn
Greg's newest book, filled with beautiful photographs and essays on the past, present, and future of the delicate, beautiful and endangered Atchafalaya Swamp Basin.

Books by Chris Segura

Unfortunately unavailable via Amazon.com; try calling bookstores in Louisiana, perhaps Maple Street Books or Bookstar in New Orleans for mail order.

Bayou, with paintings by George Rodrigue
A collection of short stories, illustrated with paintings by the well-known Cajun artist. Contact The Rodrigue Gallery in New Orleans to see if they have any copies.

Marshland Brace
Two marvelous novellas, "Tranasse" ("Marsh Passage"), and "Les Perdues" ("The Lost Ones"), stories of the Acadian people, beautifully written. Louisiana State University Press.

Books by Philip Gould

Philip Gould is a wonderful photographer, a "back-door" Louisianian who's a keen and heartfelt observer of Louisiana culture.

Cajun Music and Zydeco
A delightful photographic essay on the makers of Cajun and zydeco music, both young and old. Also available in an edition with a companion CD of Cajun and zydeco music produced as a companion disc to the book.

Les Cadiens d'Asteur: Today's Cajuns
An excellent photographic documentary on the soul of today's Cajuns.

Louisiana: A Land Apart

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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)