by Calvin Ishee

It all began with the question, What if everyone in Pass Christian read the same book and then joined together to talk about it? Well that’s the idea behind the One Book, One Pass project.

This year’s book- “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea”, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jack E. Davis was the obvious choice for this years One Book One Pass book selection committee. Their goal was to find a book that would appeal to all audiences and this book easily fit the bill.

According to Wendy Allard, Pass Christian Librarian, “The Gulf was an easy selection since the topic is so close to home for us…literally!”

So how did a book on the Gulf of Mexico come about? Professor Davis stated that he’s always liked to write biographies about places, places full of authentic and unique characters.  During his quest for a new book topic, he discovered that with characters like Walter Anderson and Nash Roberts as well as the diversity and unique beauty of its beaches, islands, estuaries and culture, the Gulf would be an exciting and interesting subject to write about.

Davis also noted that although he found over 700 books on Hurricane Katrina, he couldn’t find any other books written about the “American Gulf”. The book effectively uses over 500 well written pages to cover the American connection with the Gulf of Mexico, from the Florida Keys to the Texas Rio Grande.  After the first chapter, Davis said written was titled “Islands, Shifting Sands of Time” which featured a 1948 sketch by Walter Anderson and focused specifically on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In fact, at the One Book One Pass finale, recently held at the Randolph Center, a packed house was captivated when Professor Davis read excerpts from the first chapter written, which ended up being Chapter Twelve.

Professor Davis began writing the book in 2010 and didn’t finish it until 2016. In addition to spending countless hours surfing the Internet for information about the Gulf, he spent days and weeks at a time traversing American cities, towns and beaches that are located on the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed him to personally experience the Gulf and the magic found along his journey.

Praise for his book came from far and wide and from highly respected authors and those concerned about the “American Sea”. Edward O. Wilson, author of “The Social Conquest of Earth”, stated “Jack Davis has delivered a unique and illuminating history of the American southern coast and sea as it should be written: how humanity and the environment evolved over ten millennia as a single system.”

This book is full of poetic stories about local lure, “characters” as well all aspects of just about every inch of the magnificent Gulf Coast. Pass Christian alone is mentioned on pages 233-234, 238 and 363-364 and the Mississippi Sound is mentioned throughput the book.

The One Book One Pass team challenged itself as well as the community to create an awesome plethora of supporting programs. They used the subject itself to inspire some truly great events such as book discussions, screened two documentaries; hosted a panel discussion about the Mississippi Sound; viewed a performance of Katrina Cottage by dance theatre Mississippi (dtMS); and hosted science programs about blue crabs, marine debris, red snapper, living shorelines and a prehistoric underwater cypress forest.

The Pass Christian Community Theater Project also sponsored a “meeting of the minds” event featuring characters such as Bienville, Mrs. Walter Anderson, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Nash Roberts.

For the first time, the One Book One Pass program and the Writer’s Place hosted a poetry contest-the winners included Jessie Heitzman in the Adult Category and Lauren Kalom in the Juvenile Category, The Pass Christian Historical Society also hosted programs on Walter Anderson, the Mississippi River Branch Pilots Association, the LaPointeKrebs House and the local poet “Pearl Rivers”.

Over a thousand local residents participated by either reading the book, listening to it on audio book (20 plus hours) or by attending one or more of the highly successful aforementioned events. This project ended up truly being a total coast wide community effort involving sponsors and volunteers from across the coast.

Allard stated that she was “very pleased with how the project turned out and was extremely grateful to sponsors and volunteers alike for making this years event a total success.”