“New Orleans is left mostly to soldiers, disaster workers… and the dead” — Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, p. 88.
|Historical, Nonfiction, Educational
|Environmental Themes and Issues
|Extreme Weather, Hurricane, Flood, Environmental Justice, Pollution, Animals in Danger, Natural Disaster
|An omniscient narrator provides an account of events across the city, briefly featuring many different characters impacted by the disaster without focusing on any particular protagonist.
The comic does feature a multi-racial cast of characters.
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency
|Level 2: Low Environmental Agency
|New Orleans, Louisiana
Don Brown’s comic Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans provides a nonfictional account of the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans in August 2005. The comic traces the deadly path of the hurricane as it develops from “a swirl of unremarkable wind” in Africa and travels across the Atlantic Ocean to New Orleans (Brown 3). Emphasizing the sheer scope of the disaster rather than focusing on one protagonist, the omniscient narrator describes the effects of the storm across the city, briefly spotlighting various unnamed characters as they struggle to survive. For instance, one couple breaks through their attic ceiling to escape rising floodwaters, while other people wait fruitlessly for help at the Superdome. Brown takes the characters’ dialogue from actual quotes from survivors’ testimony. The comic also depicts individuals and organizations rescuing people trapped in the hurricane, including FEMA and ordinary citizens with boats.
Throughout the comic, Brown includes many facts about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, as well as quotes from President Bush and other authority figures about the disaster. Together, these facts and the comic’s vivid illustrations repeatedly highlight the ways that economic and social inequalities contributed to the disaster. For example, Brown notes that many residents of New Orleans did not have the resources needed to evacuate, writing that “most who stay are without a means of escape, having neither a car nor the money to buy a ride out of town” (11). The comic portrays abandoned pets and hospital patients, underscoring the disproportionate impact of extreme weather on marginalized people and animals. Drowned City also depicts police officers committing various injustices, including looting and shooting at survivors who tried to evacuate from New Orleans to the neighboring suburb of Gretna. The comic concludes by pointing out the long-lasting impacts of the hurricane on the city, particularly impoverished areas. Brown notes that only 80% of the city’s residents had returned by 2012, adding, “One ruined neighborhood, the lower ninth ward, is over-grown with plants and weeds and has just 15 percent of the population it had before Katrina” (90).
The comic includes detailed source notes that provide references for each fact and line of dialogue, as well as an extensive bibliography. A portion of the proceeds from the comic were donated to Habitat for Humanity.
Kersten, Sara, and Ashley K. Dallacqua. “Of Studious Babies, Talking Rabbits, and Watercolor Activism: Using the Comics Form to Consider Nonfiction.” Journal of Children’s Literature, vol. 43, no. 1, Spring 2017, pp. 17–26.