Center for Louisiana Studies News - April 2018

Schools and Libraries

April 5, 2018

Bayou State Book Talk on Tuesday, April 10:

The Gigi Series Portrays a Fictional Account of the Extraordinary Life and Times of Gisèle "Gigi" Carriton

Join Dennis Ward for a discussion of his new books Mademoiselle Gigi and Madame Gigi at Bayou State Book Talks on Tuesday, April 10th, beginning at 6:30 pm at the Downtown branch of the Lafayette Public Library.

Gigi, a fun-loving Jewish girl about to marry a Louisiana Cajun soldier at the end of World War II, reminisces about the war years and her family's struggle to survive them. Gigi's impeccable world of loving family, friends, and her plans to attend art school is shattered as the German Army approaches Paris. Along with millions of other refugees, the family takes the decision to flee the advancing Nazis. Marked as rich Parisian Jews, her family is subject to people's scorn while the French Republic crumbles around them. During the next four years, they will endure isolation, starvation, deportations of family and friends, and the horrors of the Gestapo. Despite living through the grim realities of war, Gigi emerges from girlhood adolescence to become a beautiful young woman with a monumental sense of humor and lightness of being.

 Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, Mademoiselle Gigi is an emotional rollercoaster that takes the reader on a page-turning journey from pure joy and laughter to despair and tears. Gigi's indomitable spirit will inspire and capture your heart. Dennis Ward's debut novel is based on the true-life events of Gisèle "Gigi" Carriton.

Madame Gigi, the second book in the Gigi series, continues the epic story of Gigi's life in America. When she reaches the shores of America in the spring of 1946 after surviving the Holocaust, foremost in her thoughts is reuniting with her new Cajun husband. Standing alone on the harbor dock, she is devastated he has broken his promise to meet her. After two decades in America, Gigi is a twice-divorced, penniless mother of five sons, and at forty years of age, she feels at the lowest point of her life. It is then that she renovates and opens a small, elegant bar for executive types in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana.

Business is tepid until three gay boys spread the word that a beautiful French lady has a Parisian-style bar that welcomes gay people. Add three saucy drag queens to the mix and the bar becomes the hottest ticket between Houston and New Orleans. With the help of her right-hand man and soul mate Clarence, a handsome, disabled, gay veteran, she moves to a larger location and expands the cabaret shows. But the club's success attracts the attention of a powerful man with unbridled ambition to become Louisiana's next governor. He vows to shut down the popular nightclub and run Gigi out of Lafayette by any means-even murder.
Dennis Ward is an award-winning playwright and author from Lafayette, Louisiana. His personal essays, short stories, and novel excerpts have been published in Southwest Review, Deep South Magazine, and Grey Wolf Publishing's Legends. His friendship with Gigi Carriton inspired his first play, Chez Gisèle (2010), a drag-musical, comedy noir, which won as a finalist in the 2011 New Orleans Saints and Sinners Theater Festival. Her epic life story also fueled Ward to write his first two novels, Mademoiselle Gigi and Madame Gigi. In addition to his work on the Gigi series, Ward has written three additional plays, including The Roadkill Diner (2011), Big Daddy's Last Dance (2016), and Finding Nelson Mandela (2017).
To learn more about the Gigi series and peruse Dennis Ward's literary garden of books, plays, and short stories, visit or DennisWardAuthor/

Bayou State Book Talks is a monthly discussion series led by authors from Louisiana who have written books that are of interest to Louisianians. The free series is co-sponsored by the Center for Louisiana Studies, UL Lafayette, and the Lafayette Public Library System. Talks are held at the Main Library branch, 301 W. Congress, Downtown Lafayette. Authors will have books available for purchase and signing.
For more information about this event, the Center for Louisiana Studies and its many other activities, please visit our website,, call 337.482.6027, or email

Meet up with the LHA in NOLA!

The Louisiana Historical Association Convenes April 12-15, 2018 in New Orleans

The Louisiana Historical Association (LHA), headquartered at the Center for Louisiana Studies, will hold its annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 12-15, 2018. Historians and scholars from around the world gather for the state's largest annual history conference. This year's expanded program includes twenty-nine sessions and over 130 panelists and presenters; several sessions focus on the tricentennial of the founding of the city of New Orleans. For more information, to register, or to view the full conference program, please visit the new LHA website,

UL Press Spring Releases and Book Events:

UL Press Issues New Titles and Hosts Author Events

The Acadian Refugees in France 1758-1785: The Impossible Reintegration?
by Jean-François Mouhot
Translated by Russell Desmond

This book examines the Acadians while exiled in France. Based on a tremendous amount of primary source research, Mouhot tells their story in great detail, while he also challenges many previous interpretations and understandings of their experiences in their "homeland."

ISBN: 978-1-935754-75-6
Softcover, 376 pp., ©2018
Projected Publication date: April 24, 2018.
Pre-Order your copy today and your book will ship the week of April 24.
Price: $24.95

Creoles of South Louisiana: Three Centuries Strong
by Elista Istre

"The word 'Creole' is unquestionably the most misunderstood term in the Southern lexicon. In this erudite tour de force, Elista Istre provides insiders and outsiders an easily digestible, yet authoritative guide to the history and culture of a community that perhaps best exemplifies the American melting pot."--Carl Brasseaux, author of more than twenty books on Louisiana history and culture

ISBN: 978-1-946160-19-5
Projected Publication date: April 24, 2018.
Pre-order now and your book will ship the week of April 24.
Softcover, 342 pp., ©2018
Price: $29.95
On Friday, April 13, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation will present a literary event as part of its Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series that focuses on the late writer Tom Dent, the history of Congo Square and new research on the history of New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indians.

The event, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Jazz & Heritage Center, features three highly respected writers:

* Kalamu ya Salaam, who is the editor of a new compilation of the writings of Tom Dent, titled New Orleans Griot
* Freddi W. Evans, UL Press author of numerous historical fiction and nonfiction works, including Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans (UL Press, 2011) and Come Sunday: A Young Reader's History of Congo Square (UL Press, 2017)
* Jeroen Dewulf, a Belgian scholar specializing in slavery and African-American culture, whose new book is titled From the Kingdom of Kongo to Congo Square: Kongo Dances and the Origins of the Mardi Gras Indians (UL Press, 2017)

Can't make that event? You can join Jeroen Dewulf, Queen Beatrix Professor of Dutch at the University of California, Berkeley, for a discussion of his recent book From the Kingdom of Kongo to Congo Square: Kongo Dances and the Origins of the Mardi Gras Indians, on Sunday, April 15, at 3pm at Octavia Books in New Orleans.