Financier Blaine Lourd was once the subject of a 7,000 word magazine feature story about his uncommonly influential career. But Lourd, a Louisiana-bred investment adviser who has managed money for A-listers such as Matthew McConaughey and the Rolling Stones, sums up the roots of his success in just one word: Coonass (his term, not ours). In his new memoir, Born on the Bayou, he reveals why. “When I say ‘Coonass’—which technically relates to a certain type of Cajun,” Lourd writes, “I’m not talking about a class distinction. A Coonass can be wealthy or poor, wise or foolish…However, at heart, he’s generally unpretentious and comfortable with himself, listens to his gut…In the end, it’s an identity. Shared proudly.”
Set first in New Iberia, Louisiana, and later on the west coast, where Lourd now resides, the book is a coming-of-age story about a boy trying to find his place among his larger-than-life family—Dad Harvey “Puffer” Lourd was an Alpha male oilman who survived a boom and a bust, brother Bryan is a longtime Hollywood agent and powerbroker—but the real thrust comes from self-reflective cultural insights of the Coonass variety. Whether it’s learning how to clean a duck at age ten or absorbing the finer points of the politics behind the oil business—awl bidness—Lourd gets to the root of what it means to be Cajun with raw simplicity. Here, a brief conversation with the author.
You’re a first-time author and not a writer by trade. What made you decide to pen a memoir?
I had been thinking about doing it for a while, but when I was 47, I was at an LSU-Auburn football game and experienced a subtle symptom that led to a triple bypass. The following January, I made a commitment to write three pages a day. By Thanksgiving, I had a draft. My sons—I have three—have lived in Los Angeles their whole lives, and I wanted to connect them to the life I had growing up, which couldn’t be more different from their reality. I still take them to visit Louisiana, but it’s not the same.
Did you write this book to feel closer to home?
Sure, in some ways, yes. But everywhere I go the South is in me still. Everyone I meet immediately knows I’m a Southerner. North Toward Home is my favorite book. I love the narrative that you’ve got to go away to get back home.
Your father, Puffer, is the spiritual center of this book, one of those larger-than-life Southern dads who are both heroes and also very flawed men. Do you understand him more now that you’re older?
When we’re young, we’re not able to see our parents for who they are, but we still learn from them, no matter how flawed we ultimately realize they were. I was the kid who went his own way. I was the kid who needed discipline. At my age now I’ve seen more of the world than my father ever has, and I’m trying to use that to teach my children differently. Be literate. Accept others. Honor is everything. Character is destiny.
So…Coonass. Some people might view that as a pejorative term, but you don’t see it that way.
The name of the book was originally “Coonass,” actually. I know it’s hard for other people to fully understand because it’s strictly a Louisiana thing, but it’s a label my father and his friends, and later my friends and I, wore like a badge of honor.
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