Left and Right

My People, Black & White

By Rod Dreher

The American Conservative

illustration by Michael Hogue

illustration by Michael Hogue

Gore Vidal famously said that he never missed a chance to have sex or appear on television. Me, I never miss a chance to eat in New Orleans. So when my literary agent proposed lunch there with the actor Wendell Pierce—best known for portraying Baltimore homicide detective Bunk Moreland in “The Wire” and trombonist Antoine Batiste in “Treme”—there was no way I was going to pass.

I was skeptical, however, of the lunch’s purpose. Wendell, a native New Orleanian, was planning to write a memoir of his family’s roots in south Louisiana and how the devastation of Hurricane Katrina renewed his love for the city. He also wanted to write about how African-Americans have always responded to hardship by making art.

He had read my 2013 memoir, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and saw potential for us to collaborate. Knowing Wendell’s formidable reputation as an actor, I was flattered that he had read my book—and humbled that he thought it good enough to consider hiring me to help him write his own. So why my skepticism?

Wendell and I come from the same state and are of the same generation, but we grew up in different worlds. He is a black liberal from the Crescent City; I am a white conservative from the rural hills of West Feliciana Parish. How could we possibly have enough in common to work together? I figured I would enjoy having a meal with the guy, but it wouldn’t go anywhere.

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