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Rheta Grimsley Johnson takes NPR’s Debbie Elliott on tour of Cajun Louisiana

Poor Man's Provence by Rheta Grimsley JohnsonNPR’s Debbie Elliott visited with syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson in Henderson, Louisiana recently, to learn about the place Rheta calls her second home. Henderson is the subject of a memoir by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, called Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, published by NewSouth Books. The All Things Considered program that resulted aired November 30.

In the interview, Elliott perceptively observes that if it was the Atchafalaya swamp that initially attracted Johnson, it’s the people of Henderson who keep her going back. “There was this unusual, almost anachronistic connection [the locals have] to the land that reminded me of my grandparents, peanut farming in south Georgia,” Johnson says. “Theirs was a way of life few have anymore. They prized time over money and family and friends over almost anything else. And I think they’ve got it right.” Junky, littered, and unplanned, with “abandoned pipelines and litter and oil streaks [visible] across a bayou’s slick surface,” Rheta also notes that Henderson is a reminder that we’re a “higher species with low-down habits.” Elliott thinks she’s got that right. She calls Poor Man’s Provence “an honest look at life in this working-class town.”

To hear the entire interview, visit the NPR website.

Poor Man’s Provence is available directly from NewSouth Books, from, or your favorite local or online book retailer.