Shortly after Hurricane Harvey dumped a record 61 inches of rain on Houston in 2017, celebrated writer and Bayou City resident Lacy M. Johnson began collecting flood stories. Although these stories attested to the infinite variety of experience in America’s most diverse city, they also pointed to a consistent question: What does catastrophic flooding reveal about this city, and what does it obscure?
More City than Water brings together essays, conversations, and personal narratives from climate scientists, marine ecologists, housing activists, urban planners, artists, poets, and historians as they reflect on the human geography of a region increasingly defined by flooding. Both a literary and a cartographic anthology, More City than Water features striking maps of Houston’s floodplains, waterways, drainage systems, reservoirs, and inundated neighborhoods. Designed by University of Houston seniors from the Graphic Design program, each map, imaginative and precise, shifts our understanding of the flooding, the public’s relationship to it, and the fraught reality of rebuilding. Evocative and unique, this is an atlas that uncovers the changing nature of living where the waters rise.
Lacy M. Johnson is the author of the essay collection The Reckonings and the memoirs The Other Side and Trespasses. Her writing has appeared in The Best American Essays, The Best American Travel Writing, the New Yorker, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction at Rice University and is the founding director of the Houston Flood Museum.
Cheryl Beckett is an associate professor and area coordinator at the Kathryn G. McGovern College of the Arts, University of Houston School of Art, Graphic Design Program. Beckett has served as the creative director at Minor Design in Houston since 1987.