If you’re not from New Orleans and you find yourself plopped in the Big Easy one day, it’s likely one of the first questions you’ll hear is “Where did you go to school?”
Here’s a “quirk alert” that will navigate you through this disarmingly simple question. If you answer with the name of a college or city or state, we’ll know you’re definitely someone who lives outside the greater New Orleans area.
When locals ask that question of one another, we respond with the name of our high school. You may have attended Harvard, been selected as a Rhodes Scholar, or graduated from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. To us, those distinctions provide little, if any, information about the real you.
But a high school? Say a name and we’ll know if it’s public, private, religious, the demographics of the neighborhood in which you were raised, where you shopped and ate, your friends … For the most part, our high schools defined us and were reference points for those who didn’t know us well. And there were anomalies, like the kids awarded scholarships to private schools or the ones who transferred to schools whose football teams won championships.
So finishing my first novel and being asked about genre was as disarming as a tourist being asked about school.