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Introduction to Unimportance

Jim Gabour introduces his novel and its serialisation, "Unimportant People"
Jim Gabour
25 August 2010

Over these last six years I have happily drawn biographical portraits of a large number of subjects from the fringes of society. I enjoy and value such people as original and brave. Based on the responses I have personally received from openDemocracy readers, the number of websites and actual papers that picked up the stories, and from the many posted comments, these have actually been among the most popular stories I have ever written. People can relate to them, as I do. Last week the advocacy group UNITY reported that 9,200 homeless people now live in the New Orleans area. That number represents a seventy percent rise since Hurricane Katrina, according to. By number alone that ranks the city among the highest homeless populations in the US, not even taking into consideration that the city is a third smaller in overall population than it was prior to August 2005. So more homeless people live among fewer actual residents.

Basically the numbers indicate that around one in every 30 residents lives on the streets of New Orleans.

My ongoing motivation is to depict people of no supposed "worth" - societal misfits, outcasts, outlaws, the homeless, and all combinations in between - people finding ways to enfranchise themselves within a system that is determined to exclude and devalue them. Besides, I think these folk intrinsically much more interesting, and much deeper of soul, than say the Lindsay Lohans and Charlie Sheens of the world.

I think most readers will probably feel the same way. I hope so.

So I am in the process of writing a novel, Unimportant People, with a preview being serialized starting 7 JUN 2011 at http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/unimportantce in a six-part series. I have changed names and details to keep the subjects safe, fictionalized the stories a bit to keep the community unharmed, but the stories were born of reality, along with the characters.

The narratives are also all based in the somewhat-twisted reality New Orleans. And there lies a secondary, but hugely important, motive for me here: a positive and entertaining story from a place that has seemed to be the negative crux of the universe these last six years. We have also been deemed "unimportant" since last year's spill, even counting this year's non-flood. Without ongoing sensationalism, we are not worthwhile to the media, other than as a vehicle for high TV ratings on yet another disaster special.

I've seen enough muddy water and oiled birds. I want people to think about this burg and smile again.

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