Tom Piazza is celebrated as a novelist and a writer on American music. His twelve books include the novels The Auburn Conference and City Of Refuge, the post-Katrina manifesto Why New Orleans Matters, and the essay collection Devil Sent The Rain. He was a principal writer for the innovative HBO drama series TREME, and the winner of a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bookforum, The Oxford American, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other periodicals. He lives in New Orleans.
In both his fiction and his nonfiction, Tom Piazza explores themes of cultural and personal identity, often using music as a prism through which to view American life. His 2015 novel A Free State, set in Virginia and Philadelphia just before the Civil War, explores the difficult, many-layered relationship between blackface minstrelsy and slavery, and the deep, painful, and still-contemporary riddles of race and society.
His novel City of Refuge follows the stories of two New Orleans families, one black and one white, during and after Hurricane Katrina; it was a One Book, One New Orleans selection and won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. His novel My Cold War won the Faulkner Society Award for the Novel, and his debut short-story collection Blues and Trouble won the James Michener Award. His book-length essay Why New Orleans Matters, published two and a half months after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, won the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ Humanities Book of the Year Award.
His writing on American music, including jazz, blues, country, and bluegrass, has been similarly recognized. He is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Writing (for his books The Guide to Classic Recorded Jazz and Understanding Jazz, and for his Oxford American column on Southern Music), and he won won a Grammy Award for his album notes to the five-CD set Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey. His music pieces have been widely anthologized, appearing in Best Music Writing 2000, The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing, Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader, and many other collections.
Tom is a graduate of Williams College, and he holds an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has held the Eudora Welty Chair for Southern Studies at Millsaps College and has been the Visiting Writer in Residence at Loyola University, the Trias Visiting Writer at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa, and a core faculty member at the Bennington Writing Seminars. He has delivered lectures and readings at Yale University, Harvard Divinity School, Columbia University, Middlebury College, Williams College, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of North Carolina, the Chautauqua Institute, the National Arts Club, and the Library of Congress. In 2015. he received the Louisiana Writer Award from the Louisiana Center for the Book and the State Library of Louisiana, awarded annually to a writer “whose published body of work represents a distinguished and enduring contribution to the literary and intellectual heritage of Louisiana.”