Classroom Teaching Guide
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: After the Deluge is a harrowing and heavy story following seven New Orleans natives throughout the lifespan of Hurricane Katrina. The story’s core players are just regular, everyday people who live through an extraordinary experience. In evacuating the city, in losing their homes, in witnessing horror and loss unlike anything they’d ever known, A.D.’s seven main characters reveal the secrets of Katrina.
Follow a pair of friends waiting out the storm in a general store, a pastor’s son fleeing to his brother’s dorm room in Florida, a popular local man throwing a party in the storm’s honor, and more. Follow the before, during, and aftermath of one of the greatest natural disasters in modern history. Follow the New Orleans natives as they experience the complete upheaval of life as they know it. Follow in Neufeld’s own footsteps as he desperately tries to uncover the hidden horrors of what happened in New Orleans in August 2005.
Combining his own experience, the experience of others, magazines, blogs, and news reports, Neufeld creates a nuanced and intricate view of what Hurricane Katrina means to the people of New Orleans. His book explores human nature at its core, the idea of home, and themes of perseverance and the will to survive. The best part? All the stories are true.
Grade Level Recommendations
This title is best suited for older high school students or college students due to its disturbing images and use of explicit language.
There is some inappropriate language in this graphic novel, as well as some disturbing images that may be especially disturbing for any students who experienced hurricane Katrina or something similar.
- Common knowledge typically dictates that A.D. stand for “after death”. Instead, Neufeld goes with “after the deluge”. What might be the significance of still titling the book “A.D.”?
- For the first section of the book, we don’t follow any of the people involved, but rather the storm itself. What effect does this have on readers? Does it turn the storm into a character?
- For most of the book, narration will jump between characters even on the same page without any warning. Does this come off as disorienting to your students, or does it make sense?
- Ask students how they feel about experiencing a true story or a piece of nonfiction in the form of a graphic novel. How does this medium convey the story differently than a report on a news channel or an article in a newspaper? What can be gained from using this medium?
- Josh Neufeld first appears in the story on page 157, at the beginning of The Diaspora. How do students feel about him appearing as a character in the story? Do they find it realistic? Does it come off as pretentious? Do they even realize that he’s drawn himself in, or do they assume the character to just be a random reporter?
- Ask students to compare all the different people that are central to the story. Have them find one page or panel that they think exemplifies every single character and explain why they chose the pages that they did. Outside of all being from New Orleans, what do they have in common? What is unique to every single person?
- Look at the illustration on pages 24 and 25. How does this image convey the transition between the first section and the second section, between meeting the storm and meeting the players?
- Compare the two full-spread illustrations on p. 100-101 (focusing on Abbas) and p. 116-117 (focusing on Leo). These two images have a similar layout, but very different color schemes and characters. Do these images feel more similar or dissimilar?
- Compare the image on pages 140 and 141 with the image on pages 150 and 151. While these images are largely similar, taking place in the same setting at the same time, one focuses on a single person while the other focuses on a large crowd. Is the effect of these images different?
- Look at the first image on the top half of page 3 and compare with the final image on the bottom half of page 187. What within the images themselves convey how much has changed over the course of the story? What do the different colors, details, and text inclusions imply?
- There are different color schemes in each of the book’s five sections. What might these color schemes convey in the smaller sections: The Storm, The Diaspora, and The Return?
- Give everyone a few moments to find an image in the book that they found to be especially profound. Discuss why these particular images had the effects that they did.
- Ask students to compare what they knew about Hurricane Katrina beforehand with what they learned from reading D.
- Have students identify whose story they connect to most and why.
- Have students research what happened at the Superdome during the aftermath. Do reports agree or disagree about what happened? Does Denise’s story seem to be the prevailing one? Why might this be?
- Ask students to do some more research on the creator, Josh Neufeld, by reading or watching some of his interviews. How does he seem to relate to the work? What connects him so intimately to the story of Hurricane Katrina?
- Research other stories from Hurricane Katrina than the five that are told in this graphic novel. Engage in a discussion where students relay the stories they’ve found to one another. What other types of stories might be missing from D.?
- Subsequently, have students create their own comic strips for the stories they find. These can be simple projects, such as having one panel before the hurricane, one during, and one after. Make sure that they stick to their research, without accidentally embellishing the stories.
- Find some documentaries about Katrina and have students watch and discuss these in small groups. How does the documentary format differ from the graphic novel format? What are the pros and cons of each medium telling a similar story?
- To continue with nonfiction in graphic novel form, consider reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and My Friend Dahmer by Derf Beckderf.
- Look at some of Josh Neufeld’s other titles, such as A Few Perfect Hours and The Vagabonds. See how his writing and art translates across subjects and genres.