Feb 22, 2024 - Things to Do

Mona Lisa Saloy to host virtual event for Black History Month

In a formal headshot, Mona Lisa Saloy smiles as she looks directly at the camera. A park can be seen in the background.

Mona Lisa Saloy is the author of "Red Beans and Ricely Yours," Second Line Home" and "Black Creole Chronicles." Photo courtesy of State Library of Louisiana

Growing up, Mona Lisa Saloy didn't read stories by authors who looked like her in the books she was assigned to read in school.

  • But now, as a former Louisiana Poet Laureate and an author and folklorist, she's writing books that help fill in that gap.

"In high school, we studied dead white men," she tells Axios New Orleans. "I didn't learn about Black literature until I left the South and my sister made me go to college."

  • "I didn't hear my southern voice, so my work has always been speaking back to [authors like] Alice Walker."

Driving the news: Saloy's latest book, "Black Creole Chronicles," is the 2024 selection for One Book One New Orleans.

We caught up with Saloy, who is also the Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor of English at Dillard University, ahead of her presentation. The resulting Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

What she set out to achieve with "Black Creole Chronicles": The book "is an evolution of what I've been doing," she says. "Black Creoles are descendants of mixed, enslaved Africans born in the New World. That's the original, circa-1400 definition by the Portuguese."

  • "Creole is actually a language as well as a culture, foodways, a style — there's even architecture."
  • "We had a lot of [that] culture here, and it was just a wonderful way to grow up."
  • "We've always had these stars, these Black Creoles. … I honored them, and it's an evolution of my work, where my storytelling lands now."

Where she went to school: "Epiphany, the Black Catholic run by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who were dedicated to educating Blacks and Indians."

  • Then, Saloy attended Xavier Prep for high school before attending and graduating from Joseph S. Clark.
  • "I learned tailoring and upholstery at Clark, and I did that through my undergraduate years, until I sold a story for $100."

Her favorite 7th Ward bar and restaurant: "L'il Dizzy's. They have great gumbo."

  • "But I also like Melba's."
  • "When I go to bars, I go to Bullet's Sports Bar, right around the corner. On Sunday, he had a second-line and who was there, but Black Masking Indians."

A recent read: "I just read a wonderful speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, called 'The Danger of a Single Story."

Something New Orleans is missing: "Patience with 100-year-old infrastructure that was ignored and is finally being tackled."

  • "Giving up is not in our DNA, so get over it. Be patient, and come up with solutions instead of complaining."

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