July 1

July 1 ~ Writing is the most enjoyable part of producing a book. I can immerse myself in creating a scene or scenario, search for just the right word, add some spice, give it shape and tone, and it brings me such joy. It’s the marketing of a work that is a struggle. What do I say to make someone want to read a book that I’ve written? Then, if someone shows an interest, it’s such a responsibility to produce a quality work that’s worthy of a person’s time. / kc

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So, So Pretty: Mardi Gras Indian Queens of New Orleans

So, So Pretty ~ African-Indian Queens in New Orleans

By Maroon Queen Cherice Harrison Nelson and Karen Celestan

(anticipated release - Fall 2016)

So, So Pretty: African-Indian Queens in New Orleans will detail the culture of women – from 18 to 80 – who are purveyors of a specific African-centric ritual and culture seen only in New Orleans.

The women support their husbands/partners/relatives who are are Mardi Gras Indian chiefs, but many stand as sole entities – Big Queens – with their own stature. Mardi Gras Indian Queens remain true to a majestic culture which has been a part of their lives for generations. They are dedicated to their respective tribes, creating delicate, labor-intensive suits for themselves and tribe members in addition to maintaining jobs/careers, homes and family life. Queens have carried on this unique tradition while battling sexism, racism and economic deprivation.

So, So Pretty will showcase distinctive performance art that is emotional, intuitive and precise. The creation of Mardi Gras Indian suits and the scheduled street parades pay homage to the spirit world and tribal ancestors. The struggles and challenges of being of African descent in America is displayed in a vibrant swirl of dance, music and theater.

This book project is supported by a grant from

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Trois noire de Nouvelle Orleans

Trois noire de Nouvelle Orleans

(Three Black Women of New Orleans)

This novella by Karen Celestan traces the lives of three New Orleans women - CeCe, Sonya, Charlayne – all from disparate backgrounds and experiences, yet intertwined by culture and society. Their stories explore class and intra-racial conflict as the sights and sounds of Crescent City culture swirl around each one - uniting them and ripping them apart.

Softcover edition – $12 

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Honoring Harold Battiste


The Historic New Orleans Collection hosted “An Evening with Harold Battiste & Friends” at their Williams Research Center in June 2010 to celebrate the man who produced and arranged many hits – from Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” to Joe Jones’ “You Talk Too Much” to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” – for studio, film, stage and television.  The evening celebrated Battiste’s recently released biography “Unfinished Blues.” The patron party featured a performance by the Ellis Marsalis Trio, an interview with Battiste and co-author Karen Celestan, and a charity auction. Jesse McBride and the Next Generation led post-party concert at One Eyed Jacks. Proceeds from the event support HNOC’s Louisiana Musicians Biography Series and the AFO Foundation, which strives to further the jazz tradition through education and assistance to New Orleans musicians.  [Photo by Steven Forster, The Times-Picayune]

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Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man

 Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man

by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan

Published by The Historic New Orleans Collection ¤ June 2010 ¤ www.hnoc.org ¤ $28.95 ¤ Cloth – 198 pp. ¤ 63 color illustrations ¤ 8 x 10 ¤

NOW available in e-book format on bn.com and amazon.com.

Copies signed by Battiste are available – $35 

 Unsigned copies – $25

Chasing the dream from New Orleans to Los Angeles and back, Battiste thrived in the jazz, blues and pop scenes. The creative force behind a bevy of number-one hits—Barbara George’s “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More),” Joe Jones’s “You Talk Too Much,” Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me”—and the sage who launched the careers of Dr. John and Sonny & Cher, Battiste worked behind the scenes of the music industry for more than half a century. With Unfinished Blues, his voice is heard, unfiltered, at last.

Battiste’s musical sensibilities were formed—and his racial consciousness raised—in the churches, classrooms and jazz joints of New Orleans. A graduate of Dillard University’s music education program, Battiste confronted discrimination as a teacher in Louisiana’s segregated public school system. In the early 1950s, he founded All for One, the nation’s first African-American musician-owned and -operated record label. His commitment to education and uplift has never wavered: in recent decades, he worked alongside lifelong comrade Ellis Marsalis to build the renowned jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans. He can count among his friends and protégés many of today’s leading young jazz musicians—Nicholas Payton, the Marsalis Brothers, Jesse McBride, Rex Gregory, Geoff Clapp, and other members of a “next generation” keeping the New Orleans sound alive.

unfinished blues is richly illustrated and features excerpts from Battiste’s personal letters and journals. Battiste and co-author Karen Celestan collaborated on his memoir for over 10 years.

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) presented the 2011 Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation to unfinished blues for excellence in scholarship.

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(Kiswahili for ‘excommunicated’)

A memoir collection by Karen Celestan shares personal stories from her childhood and teen years growing up in Niagara Falls, New York. Selected essays detail her adult life in New Orleans, including her experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and her crisis of faith as a Catholic. The collection is a clear-eyed journey of loss, restoration, healing, and the power of soul music.

Softcover edition (second edition) available – $15

     E-book (first edition) available on Barnes and Noble -$7.99purchase now!

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Freedom’s Dance: Social, Aid & Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans

Freedom’s Dance: Social, Aid & Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans

Photos by Eric Waters

Narrative by Karen Celestan

(projected release: Spring 2016)

Freedom’s Dance will provide an intimate look at the famed Second Line in New Orleans, focusing solely on the SAPC tradition, which rituals date back to the 1700s in New Orleans, when slaves first arrived at the port. This book will be filled with images from the lens of photographer Eric Waters (approximately 200 photos – including black-and-white, color, spot color and topaz). Waters, using visuals from the early 1970s to the present, showcases the pageantry of working-class people celebrating life through a dynamic display that engages even the most reserved observer.

The book will feature supporting essays from several writers, including musician and scholar Dr. Michael White, arts consultant James Borders IV, poet and cultural activist Kalamu ya Salaam, Freddi Williams Evans (author of Congo Square) and Dr. Zada Johnson (assistant professor, Northeastern Illinois University), Dr. Esailama Diouf-Henry and Rachel Carrico, and artist Charles Siler. Foreword by Joyce Jackson, PhD, Louisiana State University .

This project is supported by a grant from

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