New Orleans: the Crescent City; the city of Mardi Gras and Café Du Mond; the city of Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez; the birthplace of jazz. Perhaps an unlikely place for spiritual formation, but not for Jo Anne Tardy, who is in this poignant and honest memoir, "A Light Will Rise in Darkness." The book recounts Tardy's experiences growing up in 1940s and 1950s New Orleans as a young, Black Catholic girl.
Tardy was born in the part of the city known as Algiers, where the French, voodoo, African American and Catholic heritage of the area fused together to create a lively, emotional and thrilling community.
Reminiscent of the storytelling powers of Maya Angelou or Zora Neale Hurston, Tardy describes vibrant and uplifting experiences of family and community while tacitly acknowledging the sinister prejudice and racism that permeated life in New Orleans at the time. In the end, it was this cultural patchwork that helped define her sense of self and allowed her spiritual life to flourish.
Whether she is describing her grandfather laying hands on the sick or remembering the way the St. Louis Cathedral rose out of the seething French Quarter, Tardy makes the Big Easy come alive with her vivid and intriguing memories. She also includes a brief reflection on her old neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a community that is, like many throughout the Gulf Coast, full of people who have turned to the light in the darkness for the strength to rebuild.