Book Reviews -- Cajun Country (Folklife in the South Series, No. 1) by Barry Jean Ancelet, Jay Edwards and Glen Pitre with Additional Material by Carl Brasseux, Fred B. Kniffen, Maida Bergeron, Janet Shoemaker and Mathe Allain

Article excerpt

Barry Jean Ancelet, Jay Edwards and Glen Pitre with additional material by Carl Brasseaux, Fred B. Kniffen, Maida Bergeron, Janet Shoemaker and Mathe Allain. Cajun Country. Folklife in the South Series, No. 1. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1991. 256 pp.

About a decade ago, the National Park Service began an extensive project to provide a detailed study of all aspects of life in the area of Jean LaFitte National Historic Park in the southern region of the Mississippi Delta. In 1987, the researchers for that project produced a five-volume report, The Cajuns, Their History and Culture. The marvelous book under review, a distillation of the five-volume report, makes the results of the larger study available to the general reader. If a way could only have been found to impregnate a few of the pages with the odors of Cajun cooking, it would be an absolutely perfect book. Indeed, Cajun Country is one of the best books on its subject available today.

The authors are all persons known for their precise research, their willingness to dig for difficult-to-locate sources and their astute analysis of the materials they locate. Cajun Country demonstrates these qualities. It is carefully written and based on solid research, and the analysis is at the cutting edge of knowledge. The maps, figures and architectural drawings, as well as a remarkable selection of some 43 photographs, illuminate and extend the textual analysis.

The first section of the book, "History," examines the origins of the Cajuns, the first settlements in Louisiana, the evolution of a local society and Cajun folklife. …