The first meeting of the Franco-American Book Club took place at the end of November. I say it was the first, but really, I didn’t conceive of our virtual get-together, hosted on-line by the Franco-American Center of the University of Maine, as the beginning of anything. I intended to host a friendly, low-stakes, no-prep conversation about books that would give people ideas for holiday shopping or beef up their winter reading lists. I did not intend to start a trend. Besides the pleasure of disrupting our pandemic solitude, there were two happy outcomes of that first Zoom gathering:
Thing The First: We assembled a handy spreadsheet of titles by Franco writers or relevant to Franco history that will be of interest to readers of all kinds. This list is not even remotely exhaustive, but it was created by the group through our hour-long discussion. If you have suggestions you’d like to add, you can email them to me at the address at the top of the sheet.
Thing The Second: People enjoyed our conversation so much that we decided to meet again, this time for a discussion of a particular book, and thus the Franco-American Book Club was born! We settled on Kerri Arsenault’s 2020 memoir, Mill Town, which traces her family’s roots from Acadian PEI to the paper mill towns of Mexico and Rumford, Maine. Arsenault begins by trying to fill in some blank spaces on her family tree, but ends up uncovering generations of environmental degradation in her hometown and generations of struggle and disease in her working-class family. We’ll convene for a friendly chat about the book at 7:00pm (EST) on January 21, and you’re invited to join us. Pre-registation is required, but only to discourage Zoom-bombers. The conversation, like the book, will be in English. Check this link for all the information.
Hosting the Book Club feels like an off-shoot of my new role as Book Reviews Editor for the Franco-American literary journal, Résonance. This annual journal, which will soon publish its third on-line issue, was created to “encourage, showcase, and disseminate creative works by established and emerging writers, by and/or about the Franco-American communities of the United States,” broadly defined. I’ve been excited to contribute work to its first few issues, and I’m even more excited to join its editorial board. When I first became interested in my French heritage, I found it difficult to track down resources that felt relevant or useful, particularly in English, as I couldn’t read French at the time. Résonance, the Book Club, and even our humble spreadsheet are great ways to gather some of that information and make it more accessible to others. I’m so grateful to take part in these discussions. I hope you’ll join us.