Meow, sir! French felines in New Orleans is a memorial of a son to his father, said Jim Gabour, author from New Orleans and native of Alexandria. During the last five months of Jimmie Gabour’s life, his son amused him with different stories of French speaking cats.
The book features 20 stories of French-speaking cats living in New Orleans and how they and their humans relate to each other as they all go about their daily lives in the distinct neighborhoods that make up the city. New Orleans is also a character in the book that Gabour describes as a “rather peculiar little beast”.
“I make little fuss from a cats point of view, watching these humans perform activities in their area of ââresidence that are so different from anything cats could imagine,” Gabour said in a telephone interview from his home. home of New Orleans. “And so I would say of those first 20, some will have a human voice that pops up here and there but all 20 are really from a cats perspective.”
Why do cats speak French?
When the United States took control of Louisiana and New Orleans, French was banned in legal documents and public commerce, Gabour noted.
“Then the legislature returned, just after the Civil War, and implemented a ban on French in all schools in Louisiana,” he said. “And it lasted, as hard as it sounds, until 1974.”
But in Gabour’s book Cats Being Cats, they ignored the ban on speaking French and spoke French over the years staying close to their French roots.
Gabour called his father twice a day to read the stories he had written about French speaking felines and his father was eager to hear each one.
“I called him at 6 a.m. and at 6 p.m. when I wasn’t up there,” he said. But he was often in Alexandria to visit and write the cat stories his father loved to hear.
Gabour’s Cat Tales began during his four years as a writer for The Guardian International Edition.
“The editor and her husband came on vacation to New Orleans and came to visit her,” he recalls. “And they saw all these goofy cats hanging around the house and she said, ‘Why don’t you make a story – hmmmmm – about that one?’ So a week later I did it. And it got 2.1 million unique reads. “
Due to the success of this story, she asked him to write another one.
âSo I did another story, but basically I was laughing at myself for writing stories about cats, and she still got a million reads,â Gabour said. “I printed them out and took them to my dad in Alex and he just loved them.”
Jimmie asked if he had more cat stories than Gabour did. Since Jimmie had a cat, Gabour wrote a story about him and his cat.
Jimmie lived from Beef Trace from Bayou Robert to Horseshoe Drive here in Alexandria, but as Gabour’s stories were set in New Orleans, he changed the venue to Bayou St. John.
But the story itself concerns the neighborhood of Alexandria where Jimmie lived.
âA number of other chats were written about people I knew there in Alexandria,â Gabour said.
âBut the cats and the people were originally right there,â he said. “And there are a number of more about cats on Beef Trace in the second book.”
He created thumbnails of different parts of New Orleans and plugged in each of the cat stories.
âSo besides being a picture of an individual little cat spirit and his relationship to humans, he was also locked into a really distinct environment in his neighborhood, and I think that’s what made him feel like he was there. has made it attractive to so many people, especially here, âhe said.
Jimmie and his wife, the late Ruth Bryan Gabour, loved the city of New Orleans.
âHe and mom used to come here all the time,â Gabour said. “They even spent their honeymoon here on their wedding night.”
Jimmie, a World War II veteran, died in May 2017 at the age of 103.
âHe was entertained until the end,â said Gabour who loved to write the stories his father liked.
But after Jimmie’s death, Gabour said: “It was kind of a downtime for me, so I put them all aside.”
Then, in 2019, Gabour came across a folder containing all the stories. He decided to mail them to his agent to see what she thought.
âNext thing I know, she showed them to an editor and the very first one liked them,â he said. “I went through the process of rewriting them.”
Besides writing the stories, he also did the illustrations.
âThey liked the illustrations I did so much that they asked me to keep doing them,â Gabour said.
Meow, sir! French felines in New Orleans debuted on March 22 in 12 countries and has so far been very successful, Gabour said.
âThe little book is like a tombstone,â Gabour said. “I really loved my parents. They were wonderful people and anything I can do for their memory is good for me.”
With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, he is now on the road this summer to promote the book.
âI practically do a signing every Saturday,â he said.
Gabour is expected to do autographs at Barnes & Nobles Booksellers in New Orleans.
He had a book signing at Frenchmen Arts & Books a few weeks ago where all the books sold out, including those he had in his private reserve.
He was told that one of the best-selling places is Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, where people buy copies before they fly.
Gabour plans to do some small book signings in New Orleans neighborhoods.
Currently, he is waiting to see if he can do a signing session in Alexandria. If he does, it will be the first time he returns since his father died.
Since the success of Meow, sir! The French felines of New Orleans, another novel he wrote years ago has seen a resurgence.
The novel, Unimportant people, concerns disenfranchised people living in New Orleans.
âIt’s kind of a dark comedy and oddly enough, it’s been out for a while,â he said.
As for his future work, he has already completed his second book containing 20 more stories of cats. He’s also working on a graphic novel which he says contains huge, elaborate designs.
âIt’s going to be a very different kind of creature since I got so into drawing and design,â he said. “I really started digging in, having a good time.”
One of the illustrations in the book includes a 1927 photograph of his father’s family. The photo is at the top of the illustration with his father to the left of his family. Then below, his father is shown alone.
âIt’s a little weird but it’s fun,â Gabour said. “I kind of made a family and that sort of thing into almost everything that I have done.”
Gabour retired from Loyola University in January 2017, where he was the head of the digital filmmaking program. As a filmmaker, he had a wide range of musical projects under his belt, including Grammy nominee Terrence Blanchard. Flow: live in the flow of music.
He’s had a great time making movies, including a recent one with actor Jack Black, but finds the writing “much less stressful than being locked in a dark 18-wheeler with 150 people running around screaming for clues. “.
“I rather appreciate my deviation from this writing thing,” Gabour said. “And I draw.”
The 1965 graduate of Holy Savior Menard High School holds a master’s degree in sculpture which he said he only used to create Mardi Gras costumes each year.
âMy livelihood and everything I’ve done has diverged from that, but now I’m happy to draw and write again and it’s been a big eye-opener,â he said.
Meow Monsieur is available on Amazon and in many bookstores