In this poignant and vivid memoir, Peter M. Wolf, a member of one of New Orleans’s oldest Jewish families, provides an insider’s look at his fabled city and the wider world beyond that he comes to inhabit.
Written with humor and telling detail, My New Orleans contains rare insight about the social structure of New Orleans; student life at Exeter, Tulane and Yale; the thrill of original scholarship; around the world travel before jets; medical school trauma; ingrained southern racism, and anti-Semitism; and American students’ role in anti-Vietnam uprisings in Paris. In the background, he traces the rags to riches rise and fall of his city’s and his family’s engagement in the cotton, sugar and retail trades.
After a year of medical school at Columbia, and continuing his journey of self-discovery, Wolf returns to New Orleans to work in his father’s cotton brokerage and simultaneously earns a master’s degree at Tulane. In spite of a spicy love affair, his residence in a glorious French Quarter courtyard, his purchase of a dilapidated building he expects to restore, and growing prominence in his community, Wolf returns to the east. He completes doctoral studies at NYU and becomes an architectural historian, a profession in which he earns considerable prominence.
The author’s complicated and achingly explored romantic life is slammed to a close by a saucy, waspy, ex-pat from Texas whom he meets in Paris during his year as a Fulbright scholar, and subsequently marries.
Reflecting the yearnings and anxieties of a generation that came of age after World War II, this is the iconic journey of a restless man who leaves the hometown he loves to discover the world, and in so doing, to find himself. My New Orleans offers a penetrating and memorable account of a fading period of America’s evolution, turbulence and possibilities, as unique as the city of Wolf’s memory.
“A heartfelt, intimate, and painfully honest account of the coming of age of one shy boy and of the exotic city he left behind, but will never forget. A story of the courage of breaking away and the ‘you are there’ descriptions of places and people that make the reader part of this narrative of struggle and triumph.” (Barbara Goldsmith, author of the bestselling Little Gloria, Happy at Last)
“My New Orleans, Gone Away is the triumph of a memoirist with the eye of an architect and the heart of a poet. With admiration, and occasionally, awe, I shared the development of his feelings and taste. This may very well be a modest classic of that enchanted city’s art, culture, lifestyle and vanishing monuments.” (Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie’s Son)
“Peter Wolf’s book is a charming, insightful memoir, which is beautifully written and descriptive of what it was like to grow up Jewish in New Orleans in the mid-20th century. Peter’s journey is worth reading for those who enjoy memoirs steeped with interesting people, places and experiences.” (Scott Cowen, president, Tulane University)
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