Olivia Jones

Bookpacking in Southern Louisiana

As an English Literature major at the University of Southern California, I have been taught to read beyond the surface and to explore the text, but I have never been so encouraged to bring those analytical skills into the physical world. Bookpacking challenged me to bring the hands-on learning approach to a genre of study that does not venture into the physical world much. Bookpacking became an adventure, bringing out a group of English majors into a contextual space. We broke free of our typical roles – locked away reading – using those books as a map to explore where the physical and the metaphysical of the text meet.

We ventured off constantly, veering directions we hadn't intended to go. We stayed up late wandering New Orleans, riding the streetcar through the Garden District for ice cream or into the French Quarter for midnight beignets at Café du Monde. We sat in cafes and restaurants, discussing our novels and sharing dessert. We sat in the van and drove slowly, begging the alligators to make one sly appearance. We shared the cultural experiences that Southern Louisiana had to offer, including the food, the festivities, and more food. We walked into a restaurant, a few minutes before it was closing, and ordered Chris his first drink to celebrate his 21st birthday. We had quickly become a close-knit group, constantly looking to each other as much as we looked to our books. And although we came from a similar basis in the English department, within our new environment, we were all stimulated to explore new angles.  

The rich environment of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana, provided an expansive lens of cultures and traditions that welcomed an elaborate diversity into our thoughts. Our books allowed a deeper analysis into the histories and stories of the area, delving deeper into literary classics – cult or otherwise – that found their place in literary honors. 

We felt somber as followed Kate Chopin to Grand Isle, and imagined Edna Pontellier running into the surf. We felt chills as we followed Anne Rice into the cemeteries, imagining Louis and Lestat having another epic argument over righteousness. We laughed loudly as we followed John Kennedy Toole through the French Quarter, and imagined Ignatious stuffing his face at his hotdog cart. We enjoyed our own existential crises as we followed Walker Percy into the Garden District, imagining Binx on an existential walk of his own. We followed quietly behind Robert Penn Warren into the capitol building in Baton Rouge, and imagined Willie Stark causing a scene. We sang along to country songs as we followed Tim Gautreaux into Cajun Country, imagining Floyd's race down the highway to save his little girl. And we quite literally followed Ernest J. Gaines into his home, imaging life for Grant and Jefferson on those sugar plantations. Bookpacking took us on an unforgettable adventure, leading us anywhere, and we followed.

I can’t get no gator-action, I can’t get no gator-action. ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.
— All of us, singing in the van, to the tune of The Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Cajun Country - Lafayette

Beyond the creole traditions, beyond the rush of New Orleans and the hum of Baton Rouge, exists the other side of Louisiana; Cajun Country. Think of miles of cypresses covered in Spanish moss, miles of sugar cane and cotton fields, hearty foods like jambalaya and crawfish, and fiddles playing in harmony, and you’ll find yourself in a town like Lafayette, Louisiana. Our next author, Tim Gautreaux, had brought us there, his short story, “Floyd’s Girl,” our guide to Cajun traditions.

In his novel, Same Place, Same Things, Gautreaux writes stories about the eccentricities of Cajun culture, detailing the importance of family and tradition within Cajun communities. In “Floyd’s Girl,” Gautreaux emphasizes these elements of Cajun culture, following the story of a young girl being taken from her home. As her father attempts to rescue her, the reader is engaged in a dialogue with the girl’s community as they all hurry to save her. The perspective of the short story consistently changes from person to person, telling one short story from a magnitude of perspectives that are all thinking collectively. Gautreaux highlights the importance of community that has become a staple of Cajun culture through this jumping perspective. And ultimately, they all succeed in saving the girl, but only by coming together.

The short story recounts the elements of Cajun life that the girl stands to lose if she is taken away; the food, the music, the culture, the family, and the sense of community that shape their world. And they lament on her “Cajun-ness” that could never be stripped of her. Even if she was taken away, her soul would remain with them. Gautreaux is able to combine all these elements of tradition into one twelve-page story.

And as we drove through the countryside of Southern Louisiana, those elements of Cajun culture stood out to us. Each small town had its own community where everyone knew each other; little places where you found handwritten notes in the store windows that said, “If I’m not in the store, I’m on the porch! Come on back and get me!” We found our favorite little place in Arnaudville, Louisiana.

Tom’s Fiddle & Bow is a colorful, little instrument repair shop in the heart of Arnaudville. Its bright green paint and bright pink doors would draw your eyes if your ears didn’t lead you there first. On the first Sunday of every month, Tom’s Fiddle & Bow hosts a potluck-style jam session, where local musicians and friends come together with their fiddles and bows, of course – and ukuleles, accordions, saxophones, guitars, and more.

We had the pleasure of sitting in one Sunday afternoon, to listen to a plethora of country songs played by incredible musicians. We sang along when we knew the words and tapped our feet when we didn’t. We stood on the back porch and watched the rain pour down as we sang along to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” We stayed there for about three hours and hadn’t realized how much time had really passed, enraptured by the music and friendship that kept us there.

Our reading took us deeper into the Southern Louisiana countryside to Pointe Coupee Parish. With Ernest J. Gaines’ novel, A Lesson Before Dying, in our hands, we walked through Pointe Coupee and reveled in the fictitious world of his protagonist, Grant Wiggins. The novel follows Grant’s transformation as he is assigned the task of helping Jefferson, a wrongfully convicted man, find dignity before execution. Gaines explains the plight of African Americans in the south, examining the ways in which racism functions at an internal level for the black community. Ultimately, Grant learns to overcome his internalized self-hatred to find a sense of self-worth.

We visited the Pointe Coupee Court House with the old Parish Jail that was the basis for Gaines’ novel. The jail was operative until the late 1980’s when the Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center opened about five miles down the road. The old jail portion of the building is now only used for storage, but is mostly still intact today. We toured the eerie cells, riding up in the old elevator that can be separated by a grate; one side for the detainee, and one for the officer. The cell doors are all open now, filled with boxes of taxes and records.

Down the road from the court house, wedged between fields of sugar cane, we were welcomed into the beautiful home of Ernest J. Gaines, himself. His wife, Dianne, welcomed us into their home, serving us teacakes and scones at their dining room table as we looked on Dr. Gaines with awe. We toured the old church he had moved to his property to restore, and we asked him questions he graciously answered. We had asked him how he had decided to become a writer, and he said, “When I went to California, I had a choice of three places: the movies, the library, and the YMCA. I didn’t have money, so I didn’t go to the movies. And I went to the YMCA and I was foolish enough to get in a boxing ring with a guy who beat me up, so I thought I ought to go to the library.” And there, Dr. Gaines had found his love of literature, but had come to realize that his people’s story had not been told. Gaines set out to write those stories that would bring the African American story, out into literary focus. And he did.

Bookpacking had brought us on a trip throughout Southern Louisiana; to the sea waters of Grand Isle, to the center of Jackson Square, to the the edge of the Capitol Building of Baton Rouge, to the jam session at Tom’s Fiddle & Bow, and to the dinning room table of Ernest J. Gaines. The experience had us so focused, so developed in the cultures that surrounded us, that we had barely even realized how far we had really come.

I stood up and stretched and looked across the highway at the river, so tranquil, its water as blue as the sky. The willows near the edge of the water were just as still, and no breeze stirred the Spanish moss that hung from the cypresses.
— Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying

Baton Rouge

Way off ahead of you, at the horizon where the cotton fields are blurred into the light, the slab will glitter and gleam like water, as though the road were flooded. You’ll go whipping toward it, but it will always be ahead of you, that bright, flooded place, like a mirage.
— Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

Our reading then took us away from New Orleans. Headed straight for Baton Rouge, our bags were packed, the van was filled, and with us we carried Robert Penn Warren’s novel, All the King’s Men. We started out on the highway again, overlooking sights we had seen briefly on our ride into New Orleans from Grand Isle. I was finally beginning to understand how sudden thunderstorms could roll in, and how driving down the highway could feel more like diving in a submarine. A trip down a web of highways that weaved through what seemed like endless rivers and bayous of cypress trees and Spanish moss, seemed short in our journey from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. We had left the Big Easy behind, just for awhile, to follow the Bookpacking path.

As Louisiana’s capitol, Baton Rouge is the state’s second largest city with the next highest population, second only to New Orleans. But as our van pulled up in the center of downtown, we realized the emptiness of the streets. We attributed it to the rain, figuring everyone had taken shelter inside, but as the rain cleared and we wandered the city, the sleepiness of Baton Rouge seemed a great contrast to the vivaciousness of New Orleans. On a walk around the block, down the Mississippi’s river-edge, across the railroad tracks, and through the park, we had only seen a handful of people. The downtown Baton Rouge population seemed to congregate for lunch at Poor Boy Lloyd’s, where I had some pretty fantastic fried pickles.

A small restaurant full of people seemed like the hotspot of Baton Rouge until we ventured to the capitol building. The tallest capitol building in the United States, the Louisiana State Capitol stands 450 feet high with a 27-acre plot of land. With spectacularly manicured gardens, statues, plaques, and fine materials, the State Capitol Park cost five million dollars and was completed in only 14 months, finishing construction in 1932 under the direction of Governor Huey P. Long.

Huey Long entered into politics fighting for the common man, hoping to reduce the power of big business with taxation to serve the state’s schools, roads, and other utilities. He was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1928, under the campaign slogan, “Every man a king.” Huey Long established many reforms that transformed Louisiana’s economic climate, providing jobs to working class members, enhancing education programs, and revitalizing Louisiana infrastructure. His taxation of oil refineries and big business made him an unwelcome member of government for wealthy businessmen, which lead to many failed attempts at impeachment. Huey Long easily found a seat in the U.S. Senate and was set to run in the 1936 Presidential election against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But by 1935, tensions in Long’s government had run high, as his misuse of power had wracked democratic values for far too long. On September 8th, 1935, Huey Long was shot inside the State Capitol building in Baton Rouge and subsequently died two days later from the injuries.

What remains today is Long’s legacy in the State Capitol building and park. We discovered that that was where everyone seemed to be hiding. Inside, everyone was busy, carrying piles of papers, rushing to the elevators that drag you up 24 floors so quickly, you get a little woozy. The observation deck on the 27th floor provided a view of the entirety of Baton Rouge. From up there, the Mississippi River really does seem to go on forever.

The Senate and House Chambers are extravagant with their heavy marble columns and delicately painted ceilings. We watched as House and Senate members moved to pass bills of legislature, and we watched men and women in fancy suits strut comfortably around the elaborate capitol. Though we were in awe of its rarity, the capitol was part of their everyday life. What remains today, as Huey Long’s legacy, is the averageness of this opulence; that people still come to work in this place everyday. Imagine carrying a simple PB&J in a brown paper bag into work. It would just feel very out of place here.

Garden District

Guided by the pages of our novels, our tour of New Orleans led us to the elegant and stately mansions of the Garden District. Just a quick ride down St. Charles in a streetcar, took us into the heart of the historic district of enormous columns, glistening paint, and elaborate ironwork; each structure completely distinct from the next. In a single block we could find a home in every one of the colors we could imagine, and yet, they all seemed to meld together to create a cohesiveness. In true New Orleans’ fashion, this neighborhood survived to tell the tale of a culture-blending that brought together Victorian, Greek Revival, and Italianate architecture. These antebellum mansions, with their lush, green lawns, sprawling oaks, and gas-lit lamps, decorate New Orleans with its well-preserved charm.

It wasn’t difficult to imagine Walker Percy’s protagonist, Binx Bolling, walking down Jackson Avenue on his way to his aunt’s house for lunch. Percy’s novel, The Moviegoer, follows Binx on his existential crisis as he contemplates the ordinary, attempting to finding meaning in the day-to-day rituals of life. Binx was raised in the affluence of the Garden District, but removes himself to live in the middle-class neighborhood of Gentilly. Following his desire for meaning, Binx only returns to the Garden District to appease his genteel, Aunt Emily. He spends many an afternoon traveling through the city on his way to lunch in the Garden District, observing all elements of average New Orleans life in hopes of finding purpose in his own.

As we walked through the Garden District, I could imagine the sort of people Binx describes; the sort of people that build great mansions on deep, vast, plots, to keep themselves separated from their neighbors and the lives of those around them. Percy’s narrator of Binx realizes that life cannot be had this way. And as we walked the streets that Binx would have, the distance that wealth makes, seemed greater than it had before.

We each aimed to take pictures of the stellar architecture, but leaned over high shrubs, pointy iron-fences, and tall brick walls. Each house in the neighborhood was far removed from the sidewalk and each neighboring structure farther from the last. The Garden District had a sense of space that the rest of New Orleans had not entertained. The Tremé, The French Quarter, and the Marigny, were all full of shotgun and row houses, townhouses, and buildings that were smacked up against each other. The rest of New Orleans seemed more of a space where paint colors overlapped, where trees seemed to share land, and where cultures wanted to shake hands. The Garden District seemed to pride itself on a more manicured life.

But even there, in the great beauty of it all, the decay was visible. Each home had its flaws and its own obvious battles with the elements. Even in this utopian ideal, the viciousness of the subtropical climate could not be kept away. Constant rain and mucky soil left the porches of the Garden District just as uneven as those in the Tremé, the beating sun and humid air chipped paint there as much as it did in the French Quarter, and the thick roots of the oak trees tore up as much pavement as they did in the Marigny.

My first idea was the building itself. It looks like a miniature bank with its Corinthian plasters, portico and iron scrolls over the windows… A little bit of old New England with a Creole flavor…
— Walker Percy, the Moviegoer

Death in New Orleans

From dangerous swamp land turned to crowded streets, New Orleans has survived disease, plague, hurricanes, floods, fires, and its constant battle with natural decay from its subtropical climate. In its near three hundred years, New Orleans has consistently entertained death as a part of its culture. With an extremely difficult terrain and Catholicism guiding the visual, visceral, and creative elements of Southern Gothic traditions, the people of New Orleans constructed great cemeteries with elaborate raised tombs. These cemeteries would become so overcrowded in their time, that they would push the boundaries of their limits, often stretching far beyond their intended walls. Years and years of development and decay have condensed these expansive “cities of the dead” into what they are today; impressive icons of generations lost.


New Orleans’ high water table makes common burial practices impossible. With the soil already heavily saturated with water and New Orleans’ insatiable rain, buried caskets would often rise from the ground. This dilemma was met with New Orleans’ Catholic traditions that gave birth to the intricate tombs, mausoleums, and statues that have made their cemeteries famous. 

Within their years shared in New Orleans, European traditions and African religious practices blended together in the celebration of death. Jazz funerals, often given for members of social clubs or highly-esteemed members of the community, are understood as funerals with a parade processional that include music, dancing, and costumes. These funerals follow the family of the deceased from the funeral home to the cemetery. A band follows behind, along with a "second line," or members of the community who wish to pay their respects and celebrate the deceased.

We visited New Orleans’ most famous cemetery, Saint Louis Cemetery Number One, on a bright, sunny day. The clouds had all moved from the sky, allowing the sun to reflect off of the chipping, white paint of the tombs. We walked around with our tour guide, admiring the crippled bricks, crumbled marble, and rusted iron fences that surrounded each ornate crypt. We admired the legendary tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau. Her tomb, marked with “X’s,” is still visited today by hopefuls who wish to make offerings to the Voodoo Queen for blessings in return. The cemetery is still active, welcoming those family members that have lineages entombed there – and of course, Nicholas Cage, who has built his own pyramid-shaped crypt, believing, he too, deserves some piece of New Orleans’ afterlife. Wouldn't we all like to believe we're that special?

With Anne Rice’s vampire novel, Interview with the Vampire, still in our hands, we strolled through the Garden District and into Lafayette Cemetery Number One. The threat of rain hung heavy in the clouds as we walked through sticky, mudded pathways. A place where death had become celebrated, discussed, and respected, New Orleans was the perfect setting for vampires to lurk. We imagined Rice’s young vampire, Claudia, prowling for her victims there as we meandered the thin alleys between the raised tombs. We entertained the thought of Claudia preying on those cemetery dwellers unfortunate enough to be caught in her path. 

And she asked to enter the cemetery of the suburb city of Lafayette and there roam the high marble tombs in search of those desperate men who, having no place else to sleep, spend what little they have on a bottle of wine, and crawl into a rotting vault.
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

French Quarter

I alight at Esplanade in a smell of roasting coffee and creosote and walk up Royal Street. The lower Quarter is the best part. The ironwork on the balconies sags like rotten lace. Little French cottages hide behind high walks. Through deep sweating carriageways, one catches glimpses of courtyards gone to jungle
— Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

Our first day in New Orleans and our second book of the trip, had taken us to the French Quarter. With Anne Rice’s novel, Interview with the Vampire, still in our hands, we jumped off the street car at Esplanade Street. We took in the scenery; the street artists with their paintings, crafts, and typewriters, the musicians with their trumpets, trombones, and saxophones, and the tourists with their visors, backpacks, and cameras. Did we really look like those other tourists? Yes, yes we did.

The French Quarter, in its day, was a bustling city-center, full of rich art, culture, and creoles. And it is preserved well, now rich with the history that made it famous with a few crumbling bricks, here and there. We admired each unique building, wedged up right against the other in neat rows down and around the city blocks. The bright colors, the intricate railings, the thick moldings, dormers, and trim, all engaged us in a historical romanticism; wouldn’t it have been amazing to have lived there? Each structure begged you to wonder how long it had stood there and how much it had seen.

We sat in Jackson Square for awhile, reading our books, Mardi Gras beads hanging in the oak trees overhead. We ate at Café du Monde, sharing plates of beignets and spent hours afterward dusting the powdered sugar from our clothes. And we listened to jazz as we talked about the city, the culture, Interview with the Vampire, and then Walker Percy’s novel, The Moviegoer.

Jackson Square had become a familiar place to us as we continued to explore the French Quarter. Our search for preserved history took us many interesting places, all within a few blocks distance. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Napoleon House, the 1850 House, Madame John’s Legacy House, the Voodoo Museum, and the Old Ursuline Convent, all gave another unique facet to New Orleans’ incredibly diverse and colorful story.

The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum houses herbs, chemicals, tools, and tonics that were part of medicine and pharmacy practices in the past. The museum describes the history of medicine, especially surrounding New Orleans’ culture. Only two doors down, Napoleon House sits at the corner of St. Louis Street and Chartres Street. It was once the residence of the mayor of New Orleans, Nicholas Girod, who offered his home to Napoleon as refuge. And although Napoleon never made it, and honestly, probably never even knew Girod had offered, the name of the building never changed. Back in Jackson Square, the 1850 House is part of the series of row houses that overlooks the square, built by the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontabla, the daughter of a wealthy Spanish landowner who helped develop New Orleans, the French Quarter, and particularly, the St. Louis Cathedral. The house, containing period furnishings and fixtures, offers a glance into the lives of the upper classes during the boom of architecture, art, and culture, into the city. Similarly, Madame John’s Legacy House, represents the French colonial architecture that was popular during the construction of New Orleans. The Voodoo Museum explores the rituals, terms, and folklore surrounding Voodoo and its deep history in the city and with its African roots. The three small rooms of the museum are packed with altars, Voodoo dolls, bones, and art, detailing the importance of the religion and spirituality to its members, in the past and today. Only a short distance away, the Old Ursuline Convent is the oldest building in New Orleans, reminding us of the traditional Catholicism that establishes the city's gothic influences.

Each place we visited in the French Quarter reminded us of the vast diversity that encouraged New Orleans to become the ethnic, bohemia of Louisiana. And even though time has aged it, the city and its people continue to preserve all of New Orleans history and all its unique traditions. Every building, every place we stopped, encouraged our understanding of the city's web of histories. Only in New Orleans, could all these things coexist. It was, and remains, a place for Voodoo and Catholicism, for Spanish and French, African and American cultures, for political and literary debates, and for art and relics. 

We had become part of that dialogue, part of the story of New Orleans, our books shedding light in corners of the city that would have otherwise been overlooked. We imagined Kate Chopin’s, Edna Pontellier on one of her famous walks down Esplanade Street, Anne Rice’s, Louis and Lestat creeping down Bourbon Street for a midnight snack, and Walker Percy’s Binx locked in an existential crisis on his way to lunch on Royal Street.

En Route to New Orleans

She sat beside me, silent, as we rode on and on until we’d passed the gas-lit gates of the few country houses, and the shell road narrowed and became rutted, the swamp rising on either side of us, a great wall of seemingly impenetrable cypress and vine. I could smell the stench of the muck, hear the rustling of the animals.
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

In our big transition into the city, from Grand Isle to New Orleans, our Bookpacking group stopped into the Barataria Preserve Trails, and to be honest, with the greatest intent being to spot ourselves an alligator. Extremely excited for this endeavor, I did research all the differences of alligators and crocodiles while we were en route, just to make sure I knew what I was talking about when that ever popular question came up, "Do they have alligators or crocodiles in Louisiana?" To be ever prepared yourself, I suggest you do your own research.

Beyond our obvious and ecstatic fascination with 'gators,' we had already begun to read Anne Rice's novel, Interview with the Vampire, which very immediately, engages your interest in swamps, bogs, bayous, what-have-you. I was eager to explore a difficult terrain with marvelously perfect attributes for a vampire to hide its victims. Anne Rice writes of Louis, a struggling, righteous, moral vampire, who becomes the immortal companion of sadistic, cruel, immoral vampire, Lestat. The two peruse the bayou, whether it be to hide the body of a recently drained slave, or in the various attempts Louis decides to reinvent his vampiric-self by trying an animal blood diet. And while Louis' diets never last very long, we can't really blame him. None of us can do it here in Louisiana either, Lou.


We hopped out of the van, the humidity thicker near the stagnant water of the bayou, the shade darker under the supposedly only fledgling cypress trees, all with our hearts set on finding that illusive gator. Sadly, you will have to be disappointed, as we all were, to learn that we did not spot our alligator beauty in the murky waters of the swamp that day. We are all dealing with this in our own ways; Morgan is still encouraging the group with her Steve Irwin impressions.

We walked down the boardwalk of the Barataria Trails, inter-webbed over the low-lying water and between the cypress trees. We looked high --but mostly low for that gator-- up into the canopy where the cypress were engulfed in Spanish moss and thick vines. We enjoyed dragon fly after dragon fly, and surprisingly, squirrel after squirrel, as we made our way through the bayou.

With Rice's words from Interview with the Vampire in our hands and in our minds, we all imagined Louis and Lestat meandering the swamps. And with a story with such contrast and change from Kate Chopin's softer and critical novella, The Awakening, we were challenged to redirect our thoughts. In a few short moments we had travelled from the soft sandy beaches of Grand Isle into the muck of the swamps. As we continued our journey into the city of New Orleans, the realization that this region, that Louisiana, was such an elaborate ecosystem of both nature and culture, became the marker of the breadth of Bookpacking.

Our Grand Isle

Kate Chopin describes the past life of Grand Isle, Louisiana, as a fanciful escape from the buzzing city of New Orleans. She writes of pristine, white, sandy beaches, of humid heat that has you running for the rushing waves, and of an amble sort of life that draws your mind to wander just as much as your feet.

In its present life, you'd find Grand Isle to nurture these very same qualities; now only more reverent with the history of time passed. And there in our first experience of "Bookpacking," Grand Isle became the perfect place for our little group to connect to our thoughts, the Bookpacking adventure, and each other.

There we all walked down to the beach to read. With our towels lined up in a straight row, we took in the sun as we opened Kate Chopin's, The Awakening. Our toes in the sand, our eyes on the pages, and the breeze on our faces, we clichéd our way through Chopin's story of Edna Pontellier and her adventures at Grand Isle.


Edna describes the feeling of being somewhat of an outsider to the Creole traditions that she is surrounded by; their spoken and unspoken rules, their innate openness of touch and blunt discussion, and their overall high-culture society. Though a part of the Creole world through her marriage to Léonce Pontellier for some time, in Grand Isle, she finally begins to utilize those elements of Creole culture to discover herself. That summer, Edna encounters relationships that transform her perceptions and develop her mind to cultivate in the awakening of herself.

And as we all loomed over our books, reading Edna's story of self-discovery on Grand Isle, we were all engaged in that dialogue of being an outsider looking in. We knew little of Creole life, of Grand Isle history, and of Louisiana in and of itself. We had only known each other a day or two, a four-hour plane trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans, and a two-hour car ride to Grand Isle. But there, Alfredo, Bowen, Chris, Ogechi, Stasi, Sarah, Morgan, and I, became friends. We discussed the themes of Chopin's idea of Grand Isle, of Edna's awakening, and where the story would take us. We ran through the water together, making snide and clever jokes straight from the novella, and all discovered we had a flair for random outbursts of song and uncomfortable dancing.

Andrew Chater developed our perceptions of Creole traditions and the world Kate Chopin was writing in and we stayed up at night discussing Chopin's feminist invention and listening to pop songs from the 90's. We explored the island, remembering Edna's fictional experiences in places that still were and places that time had eroded away. We all carried our books everywhere we ventured, stopping to read when it suited us. And we had all so quickly become a part of the Bookpacking family that we had barely even realized it.

Bookpacking really set in, for me, as a group experience. Only a few days in, I couldn't wait to see how we would continue to grow as the days went on. Through the process of collaboration, discussion, and unbearable wit, we all seemed to discover parts of the story, parts of the culture, parts of the landscape, and parts of ourselves that we wouldn't have realized without each other. Edna Pontellier grants as much of her awakening to her relationships as she credits her own ambition for freedom. The recipe for Bookpacking develops this same evolution.

The people walked in little groups toward the beach. They talked and laughed; some of them sang... There were strange, rare odors abroad—a tangle of the sea smell and of weeds and damp, new-plowed earth, mingled with the heavy perfume of a field of white blossoms somewhere near.
— Kate Chopin, The Awakening