Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Long Distance Appearance

I have an on-line chat scheduled for next April with a 5th grade book discussion group at a public library in Maine. I'm excited about this because I've been interested in trying it for quite some time. You may have picked up on the fact that I'm not a great traveler. I'm not in Chicago this weekend because if I'm going to get on a plane, either a near and dear relative is going to have to be intensive care with plans to stay there for a while or someone is going to have to give me an enormous award, probably international in nature. I don't mind driving, but even with GPS it's a crapshoot as to whether or not I'm going to get where I'm going, so I don't go too far.

So, anyway, I've thought this on-line meeting business could be the way to go for someone like myself who, as one of my family members once observed, wants to be beamed places. I've just never done anything about trying to set anything up. Fortunately, this library sought me out. And for a very interesting reason.

This town has a population with a French Canadian background. I'm guessing that for most kids these days that will mean French surnames, that their great-grandparents were the immigrant generation, their grandparents grew up speaking French, and the language was lost after that. The librarian has been reading A Year with Butch and Spike with fifth graders because Butch and Spike are named Couture and I am named Gauthier. So they're interested in me because of my Franco American connection.

This spring the kids taking part in the discussion will be given copies of The Hero of Ticonderoga after we talk. That book should be perfect for their purposes (if I do say so myself) because though we usually talk it up for its historical aspects, when I was writing it, I was very interested in portraying how families are assimilated. The LeClercs are losing their language, they are losing their food, they are even losing their names. At home, Therese is Therese. Her teacher, however, calls her Theresa. Her brother is Marcel at home. But when Therese runs into a non French speaking high school boy who knows her brother, he refers to him as Marc.

No one else has shown any interest in this aspect of the book, so I'm quite excited about talking about it with these kids.

Anyone interested in the French experience in America might enjoy reading French Canadian Lit: Clark Blaise on Philip Marchand a review of Marchand's book Ghost Empire: How the French Almost Conquered North America.

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