Eva Augustin Rumpf
Reviews & Publicity
RECLAMATION: Memories from a New Orleans Girlhood
Much More Than a Memoir, June 28, 2009, Amazon.com
Telling one's story is never a matter of memory alone. It's also an imaginative reconstruction, whose assembly reflects the person one has become. Reclamation can be read as a memoir of that sort, a vehicle for piecing together the scattered parts of a life around the core of present self-knowledge.
Part inner quest, part family history, the book lovingly details a way of life that was already vanishing from the New Orleans of the author's childhood in the 1940s and 1950s: radio versions of Sky King, Dime Cards for polio victims, liquid starch in backyard washtubs, movie newsreels, creaky wooden floors in the Woolworth's five and dime.
It should be noted, however, that the book was also motivated by the literal devastation of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. These circumstances serve as a frame for the author's story, giving it a good deal more poignancy and power than one would normally expect of a personal family record.
The narrative itself is not quite linear, although it does follow the author's general emergence from the limitations imposed by social class and an Introverted temperament into a self-determined adulthood far from New Orleans. Rather, it operates as a series of vignettes, some of which cover the same territory from different points of view.
The leitmotif of Katrina and the author's struggle to make sense of what happened to New Orleans gives unexpected resonance to the restless spirit that haunts the book throughout -- the author's unpredictable mother, whose inner life remained stubbornly opaque to her eldest daughter to the very end. One gets the sense, finally, that Rumpf is trying to put that spirit to rest by offering her children and grandchildren a window into her own psychological and emotional life. This aspect of the story is its claim to universality beyond the specific family whose background it preserves.
In summary, the book is worth reading simply for its detailed and colorful descriptions of a way of life that is now gone. But it also tells the moving story of a woman's determined struggle to find her own way, and, then, to find her way back to what she'd left behind.
A Little Difficulty in the Big Easy, August 31, 2009, B&N.com
The author has created a rich tapestry of the themes which are common to childhood struggles. Most of us remember the challenges of starting school, making friends, the sting of ridicule, learning the unspoken rules as well as the formal one, watching and learning gender roles, making up games, evaluating family members as ally or suspect, learning a bit about commerce, discipline, neighborhood, travel beyond our neighborhood, the wider vistas of radio and the movie theater. These formative experiences are brought to life by the author.
Rumpf's struggle to understand her relationship to her mother and her roles in school were particularly poignant. This was a courageous effort to remember and share the results. Even I, an aging male raised in the Midwest, could relate to the experiences so honestly described.
Beyond the confines of this one person's journey is the somber theme of the storm which changed so many lives, which forever changed one of America's most unique cities. The author handles this theme very well, with honest concern, as well as sadness. It is obvious that assimilating the events of Katrina will take quite a while, both for the author and the community she left. It was a shock to our national consciousness, how much more so for the natives of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?
The book is an easy read, as one can pick out chapters at random, and the pictures add another dimension to the writing. The introduction is especially noteworthy. It was worthwhile spending time with this author. The memories are especially rich for someone who grew up in the same period, but this volume is a treasure for any age.
Intrigue, betrayal, academic style, drive fine first novel Prot U
As editor of the student newspaper, The Crimson Crusader, Mike Carter is hoping to stay out of trouble during his senior year so he can graduate at last from dear old Protestant University. But a campus-wide power struggle forces him and his faculty advisor, Angela Goodwin, to choose between safety and doing the right thing.
In Eva Augustin Rumpf's fine first novel, Prot U, a university campus in Texas boils with conflict, enveloping an incompetent president, a self-serving department chair, a corrupt board of trustees president, protesting teaching assistants, and illegal immigrants.
Will Mike graduate? Will his budding romance with Jenny Lofton blossom? Will Angela get tenure? Will cattle rancher Marlin Lynch succeed in subverting the university for football fame? Will Isabel Romero get deported? Will Mallory Moore pledge the sorority of her dreams? These and other questions will keep you turning the pages of this bright, entertaining satire.
Eva Augustin Rumpf is a veteran of campus politics, Texas style. Now living in Milwaukee, she's the author of Till Divorce Do Us Part, a Practical Guide for Women in Troubled Marriages. She contributed a primer on rejection letters, "How to analyze rejection slips," to the last Creativity Connection.
Reviewed by Marshall J. Cook, Creativity Connection, October 2004
A quality comic tale
Eva Rumpf's PROT U is wicked fun for all. It gives entertaining insights on the college campus life to those who've never been on campus, and big reasons to say "that's so true" for those of us who deal daily with the mix of personalities that collect under the beaucratic roofs of academia. A smart, funny novel!
Christine DeSmet, author and screenwriter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
A book that works on several levels
This is a deceptively easy book to read -- a bit like last generation's medical-center satire, "The House of God." The latter, once described as "Catch-22" with stethoscopes, employed dark humor to mount a devastating indictment of the way physicians were trained in the 1970s. The ambitions of "Prot U" are not as large, but the book subjects academia to a similar farcical viewpoint, offering campus life as a microcosm of the perennial clash between politics and social responsibility.
For this reason, the book is fun to read simply as a short and well-paced novel about the colorful characters fictional Protestant U has brought together for a single academic season. However, the fact that the story is set in Texas allows the reader to infer a wry and subversive commentary on the corporate style of administration that emerged under the Bush governorship, and the difficulty of journalists to buck the system on which their livelihoods depended.
As a journalist herself who has worked in Texas, Rumpf knows this territory well, and she clearly enjoyed the opportunity to skewer some of the class and social roles that Texas culture appears to encourage. The book manages, however, to keep its humor light, skirting the mean-spiritedness of genuinely black comedy. At its core is a warm affection for the unsung heroes of our time, whose refusal to delegate individual responsibility to the corporate body always has its price.
Reviewed by Lenore Thomson Bentz, Midwest Book Review, December 2004.
F. Scott Fitzgerald