Writing the profile on Karen Gadbois for New Orleanian of the Year was one of the best assignments Ive had. We met for coffee, and over the course of a few hours, Gadbois told me the story of her life, paying close attention to the post-Katrina days. Gadbois knows how to keep an interviewers attention shes led a fascinating life and she peppered our interview with some pretty funny and provocative quotes, like for instance, when she was telling me how she discovered she had breast cancer:
I called my sister and said, Have I ever complained about this before? I think I feel something. She said, No, its not on your famous list of common complaints.
Gadbois is a quote machine, but as you can imagine, when you have a three-hour interview, a lot of stuff gets edited out. Some writers refer to this editing process as killing your babies, but in this case, its almost all pure Gadbois. So, in the interest of resurrecting some of Gadbois kids, here are a few more of her zingers.
On how she and her family left Mexico, because there wasnt a good middle school in their village for her daughter Ida to attend: Were the only ones that moved to New Orleans for the educational system.
When Gadbois lived in Mexico, she worked with convicts, who were artists, in a prison, and Gadbois noticed the penal system there was more about reform than ours.
The wives can come; the kids could come, so theres a very familial environment. The warden used to say to me, These men will come and live next door to you someday. So thats their attitude. If you dont believe in reforming, forget it, right?
Gadbois explaining how she and her family were treated when they evacuated to Austin in the days following the levee failures:
We got adopted by we called them the LEMA, the Lesbian Emergency Management. It was this group of women in Austin who scooped us up and took care of us. Doctors and schools for kids.