“Katrina did something to my psyche,” says New Orleans children’s writer Whitney Stewart. Along with her teenage son and her 87-year-old mother-in-law, and with a cast on her own injured ankle, she was rescued by helicopter late at night after five days stranded on the fifth floor of the Tulane Medical School building during the hurricane’s aftermath. It was “a crazy, chaotic, unsettling experience… We’d tried earlier to leave but our rescue boat had been overtaken by people with guns… After Katrina, I needed to do new things. I needed a new paradigm for New Orleans.”
Whitney is now learning to kayak and doing volunteer work with the public schools. On a whim, the former high school actor sent photos of herself, her guitarist son, and her geneticist husband to casting agents; her son landed a role in “Cirque de Freak,” to be filmed in New Orleans this year.
But this writer had an adventurous life long before Katrina. After trekking the Himalaya twenty years ago with her mom, Whitney, who’d discovered her affinity for the biographical form as a Brown undergrad, wrote biographies for children of the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong, Sir Edmund Hillary, and the Buddha. Her love of travel has also led her to write two young adult novels that present kids’ eye views of New Orleans (Jammin’ on the Avenue) and San Francisco (Blues Across the Bay).
A primary concern is getting across the message of subjects like the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi. Her biography, Aung San Suu Kyi: Fearless Voice of Burma, is soon to be re-issued, with proceeds going to a non-profit that benefits the Burmese cause. “I’m amazed that so few people have heard of her,” Whitney told me. She’ll tell us about meeting this brave Burmese woman in an upcoming guest blog. Stay tuned!Display Comments Add a Comment