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Tom Piazza 

Though some have said that Hurricane Katrina was the great racial equalizer, without bias in its destruction, few who have lived through the levee failures and its aftermath would deny there are two distinct sides to the Katrina experience: a white one and a black one. Local writer Tom Piazza (Why New Orleans Matters) delves into both in his new novel, City of Refuge. From the African-American perspective, Piazza introduces readers to SJ Williams, a carpenter and widower living and working in the Lower Ninth Ward pre-storm, who struggles to keep his family and life together after both are nearly washed away. Across the city, living in the dry confines of Uptown is Craig Donaldson, his wife and two kids. Something about Donaldson sounds eerily familiar: The caucasian editor of an alternative weekly, he evacuates to Chicago and then has to decide whether or not he and his family can return to the city he deeply loves. Without giving anything away, Michael Tisserand, Gambit Weekly's former editor, answers local readers' burning question: Is he Craig Donaldson? 'The scaffolding is in part me, but the building is all Tom's," says Tisserand. Check out Piazza's creative construction as he reads and discusses the novel this week. Free admission. — David Winkler-Schmit

6 p.m. Tue., Aug. 19

Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St., 899-7323; www.octaviabooks.com

5:30 p.m. Thu., Aug. 21

Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St., 895-2266; www.gardendistrictbookshop.com

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