20 greatest works of fiction about New Orleans

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Voodoo Season (Cover image via Washington Square Press)

12. Voodoo Season

Ultimately, you can’t collect a wide-ranging look at the art and culture of New Orleans without getting to voodoo. Much misunderstood and often maligned, the set of religious practices often called Louisiana or New Orleans voodoo is clearly linked to the spirit of the city and its people.

Louisiana voodoo is a combination of quite a few different spiritual and cultural practices. It includes elements from African religions brought over by slaves who were abducted from West and Central Africa, along with their descendants. Once in New Orleans, these beliefs began to merge with the unique form of Catholicism practiced by Francophone people in the region.

The voodoo practiced in New Orleans and nearby areas is distinct from Haitian Vodou and hoodoo or conjure work practiced else in the American South. New Orleanian voodoo is what gave us the notion of voodoo dolls, protective amulets called gris-gris and voodoo queens such as the famous Marie Laveau.

In Voodoo Season, Jewell Parker Rhodes revisits the mythical tales surrounding Marie Laveau, who was active in New Orleans during the 19th century, adding a more modern twist with Marie Levant.

This particular Marie is the great-great-granddaughter of the famous voodoo queen. Over the course of the novel, Levant feels compelled to leave behind her big-city medical career and go back to New Orleans. Once she arrives, Levant is repulsed by some of the racist traditions, but can’t help but feel that there is some deeper, more mysterious force pulling her towards a powerful conclusion.