Teacher's Guide to A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Note: For the full teacher's guide, see the Random House website, from which the material here has been excerpted. The guide was written by Sari Wilson.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
1. Neufeld begins “The Storm” with a view of the Earth from outer space. What is the point of view being used here? How does the movement of the “camera” affect the pacing and the overall emotional impact of this sequence of images?
2. What visual details strike you? Do you find “The Storm” an effective way to communicate the power of a natural event and its impact on human habitation? How might it differ from a prose narrative of the same event?
3. What conclusions can you draw from “The Storm” about the differences in the way Hurricane Katrina affected New Orleans versus how it did Biloxi, Mississippi? If students are having trouble identifying the devastation caused by the storm surge and its recession (Biloxi) and the breaching of the levees (New Orleans), reacquaint them with the facts of the event and how it impacted various regions of the Gulf Coast differently, then have them analyze this sequence of images again.
1. What initial conclusions can you draw about each of A.D.’s characters? How does each respond to news of the hurricane’s approach?
2. On pages 40–41, we learn that Leo is a comic book collector. When he talks about how hard it is to leave his comics behind, he says, “It’s like leaving my friends behind.” Do you think he is being materialistic—or are there ways in which things can be our “friends”? Are there objects in your life that fill this role? Explain.
3. One of the major decisions residents of the Gulf Coast—and of any area threatened by a natural disaster—have to make is whether to evacuate or to risk staying. Which of the characters in A.D. decides to leave? Which characters decide to stay? What are each of their decisions based on? What conclusions can you draw about each of the characters based on their decisions?
4. Given what you know about the flooding that occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was over, what examples of foreshadowing can you find in “The City”?
5. A.D. is a work of comics journalism, which means that Neufeld has used visual references and interviews as the basis of these accounts. What sources might he have used for “The City”? Discuss how the experience of reading comics journalism is different from reading a prose work of journalism.
1. Describe Abbas and Darnell’s situation at the start of “The Flood.” How do they learn that the levees have been breached? What actions do they take in response?
2. In the first section of “The Flood” (pages 82–107), what visual devices of the comics form does the author use to communicate the passing of time? What visual devices create dramatic tension?
3. On p. 120, Abbas and Darnell are handing out bottled water. How is this action ironic given their original reason for staying behind?
4. Abbas and Darnell are initially excited about facing the hurricane. On page 51, they “fist bump” and Darnell says, “It’s going to be just like ‘Survivor.’” By page 131, however, they seem less certain. Compare their attitudes at the start of the book with their attitudes later on. What has changed? How have their expectations differed from the reality of their experiences?
5. How would you describe Abbas and Darnell’s friendship? How is it tested during their ordeal? Do you think it will survive? Why or why not?
6. What does the author’s depiction of the events at the convention center tell you about how rumors get spread? What might this depiction say about the origins of what is often referred to as “the madness of crowds”?
7. What does the full-page spread on pages 150–151 communicate about the state of things at the convention center? How do the author’s drawings and panel choices communicate the fear and terror felt by those trapped at the convention center?
8. How is order kept at the convention center? What is ironic about this?
9. What words would you use to describe Denise’s experience at the convention center? Explain.
1. What has happened to the characters in the year and a half since Hurricane Katrina? Why do you think Neufeld chose to pick up the story at this point?
2. On page 157, Neufeld appears in the comic for the first time. Why do you think he decides to draw himself at this point? How does “seeing” the author of the book affect you? How does it change the notions that inform the idea of objectivity in journalism?
3. The “New Journalism” of the 1960s and 1970s pioneered the use of fictional techniques—such as stream of consciousness, in-scene dramatization, the use of dialogue—for nonfiction reportage. The descendents of this movement often claim the term “creative nonfiction.” The bulk of A.D. is told through in-scene dramatization, a technique common to fiction writing. The last two sections of the book, from page 157 forward, is mostly narration. Discuss why Neufeld might have chosen these two types of structures and techniques for different sections of the book. Discuss how A.D. does or does not fit within the tradition of New Journalism.
1. Why do you think the author chose this bright color scheme for “The Return”? How does it compare with the color choice for “Diaspora”? How does the mood of these two sections differ? What effect does color choice have on tone?
2. On pages 176–177, Denise offers a glimpse into the emotional reality of loss—the loss of a deep connection to a place. On pages 181–182, Leo talks about the experience of losing his physical possessions. Discuss your responses to each character’s struggle. How does the author visually juxtapose these two types of loss?
3. Show students an image of the fleur-de-lis and one of the Mardi Gras flags of New Orleans. Together or in small groups, research the origin of the ritual of Mardi Gras, which is such an important part of New Orleans’ history and the ongoing culture of New Orleans. You may also want to explain that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided temporary housing in trailers to many New Orleans citizens rendered homeless by the storm, and that, unfortunately, many people remained in these trailers even years afterwards. Then discuss with students what the final image of the book—a FEMA trailer draped with Mardi Gras beads, decorated with a fleur-de-lis and a Mardi Gras flag—evokes for them as a symbol. How does the author use powerful local symbols to create meaning?