CAJUN HOME by Raymond Bial


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Bial's exquisite photography glorifies Cajun life, past and present, in a format similar to his other books, including Shaker Home (1994). After a note on dialect--Bial includes many French phrases, with meanings and pronunciations, within the text--he launches into the origins of Cajun people, sketching in a historical framework and telling how their lot as refugees inspired Longfellow's ""Evangeline."" Customs, homes and land, household objects, cooking, music, tangled blood lines, and rich language are all clearly described, appearing with striking photographs of quilts, wooden shoes, textiles, furniture, and shops. The book is accessible and inviting, but few readers will know how to discriminate between Bial's introduction to the Cajuns--""Deep in the woods and swamps of Louisiana live the Cajuns"" and ""the Cajuns were driven deep into the Atchafalaya Swamp, [which] teems with fish, alligators, crawfish, and other wildlife. It is the heart of Cajun country""--and his later blasting of a stereotype of the Cajuns as ""coarse people who lived in the woods and swamps thick with alligators and snakes."" He then provides another kind of oversimplification by uniformly praising Cajuns as ""delightful people known for their hard work and generosity."" Readers who can get past these minor points of confusion will close the book with a sense that they, too, have traveled to Cajun country.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin