The expat and family

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One of the many downsides of being an expat is loneliness, because of the lack of a family. The need for relatives becomes more urgent around family-oriented holidays, like Thanksgiving. As a Frenchwoman, I had never celebrated Thanksgiving before, but the plethora of ads and diverse media featuring loving families was overwhelming during my first Fall season in the United States. I accepted an invitation to join one of my friends’ family for dinner, and the whole experience brought up mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was extremely grateful and thrilled to be part of such a warm and welcoming family for one day. On the other hand, the cute Italian-American grandpa sitting next to me reminded me so much of my own cute French grandpa that it was almost painful. This lovely family had me over for all the major holidays over the next 2 years, until their son and I graduated from our Masters program and sort of lost touch.

Then, almost like clockwork, I met my boyfriend. After only 2 weeks of dating, he took me home to meet his parents. Besides my ‘foster’ family, I had never really been introduced to the world of an American family before, since I had lived in such a grad-student-oriented world. He told me that he wanted me to meet his parents over a delicious sushi dinner and a bottle of wine. I started panicking so loudly that a random lady approached me to say that I had nothing to worry about, that I was a lovely person and that his parents would love me. Sure, lady. The first meeting was fine, but I had no idea they were so conservative and may have made a few semi-inappropriate jokes. They seemed to like me fine, but the next couple of months were somewhat tense, especially between me and The Mother. It was not a classic case of ‘My Son Is Too Good For You’, it was more complex than that. She probably didn’t like that I was a foreigner, and that I was so liberal. It was never an open feud, but it wasn’t super warm either.

article-2493071-0293502D0000044D-730_634x473 Yes, that’s right, if we follow the analogy, she’s Jane Fonda, and that would make me J-Lo.

Then, I stuck around. I, the woman who always sucked at relationships before, transformed into a supportive girlfriend and gained The Mother’s trust. Before too long, without even realizing it because it was so gradual, I became a part of their family. So sure, I still feel awkward around them most of the time, and I rarely have anything cool to say to the 2 younger brothers, but I know that they consider me as *almost* one of them. It materializes in the little things. It’s when The Mother invites me, alone, to watch the little brother’s baseball game. It’s when she wants me to go buy yarn with her and her mom -as you will discover sooner or later, I’m a knitting maniac. It’s when the dad comes to help me negotiate the price of a car. Little things, little everyday, supportive things that you only do for or with people towards whom you feel obligated. In other words, family.

When I started complaining about my mom TO my boyfriend’s mom -the way that I usually complained about her to my own mom-, that was another clue: I no longer needed to crave a family environment.

alf20cast_slideshow_604x5001_zps9c7dea9c Just like ALF, I’m an alien who got taken in by a family (except that I, unlike him, am a LEGAL alien).

Guilty pleasures

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As you know, I am on my way to become a literature professor, although I still have a couple years ahead of me. That means I kinda *have* to be an avid reader. I have realized over time that I have several reader personas, and the one that manifested first in my life turned into the most guilt-ridden one.

As a little girl, I read everything around me. I’m aware of how cliché this sounds, but it’s simply true. However, the least-cliché part of this story is the type of books that I was devouring. From a very young age, I developed a passion for mystery novels, especially vintage ones, like Agatha Christie’s, which I obviously read in French at the time. The first Agatha Christie I read was And Then There Were None, that my grandmother bought me as a reward for helping her paint some flower pots. I still remember her taking me to the bookstore, which had a very small mystery selection, and how drawn I was to this particular novel. Funny enough, the cover was nothing to write home about, it was a simple yellow cover with a feather on it, but as soon as I read the plot summary, I was hooked. I also remember finishing the book the next day, and asking my mom for more of the same. She bought me all that she could find in our little bookstore, and thus the hunt began. My dad liked going to garage sales and flea markets to find vintage motorcycle-related items, and I loved going with him to fumble through the old books. One particular vendor had a lot of Agatha Christie as well as Mary Higgins Clark, but I stuck to the author that I knew and loved. Soon enough, I owned more than 15 of her novels and short stories, which I read right away but frequently re-opened on sunny days, all the while laying out on my parents’ terrace.

One of the embarrassing aspects of my passion for thrillers is my everlasting reluctance to try out a new author. I am a big believer in the idea that if something is working, there is no need to change it. What kind of self-proclaimed avid reader doesn’t like to discover new authors?

12918-004-85BA5361 Sup, Agatha? Thanks for the ride, gurl.

I literally refused to pick up a book from a writer I didn’t know, which is, I know, a stupid attitude. I still do the same thing, to some extent. I’m not a very adventurous reader when it comes to reading for pleasure. Academically, though, I love discovering new theoricians and new authors, because the new things are likely to provide me with new ideas. But I’m completely different towards my guilty-pleasure books. I know what works, so why stray?

So, I already confessed that I loved Agatha Christie as a child. It’s not ALL I read, but it constituted most of my bookshelf. Growing up, I discovered new authors and got attached to different genres as well. But the thing is, I’m still REALLY into mystery/thriller novels. It’s a somewhat embarrassing thing to admit, when you’re an aspiring academic. Mystery is not considered a noble genre, especially in French literature. The plot possibilities are limited, the characters are always the same type, and the writing itself is often cringeworthy, even more so in more recent thrillers. But the truth is, I love it. I thoroughly enjoy the breathtaking plot twists, even the ones that I half-expected. I love the feeling of reading a book, page after page, without taking notes, or trying to link it to a theory by Foucault or Barthes or Edward Said. I love the freedom that a mystery novel gives me. I can bring it in my purse when I’m waiting for my boyfriend during a teethcleaning, or waiting for my car during an oil change. It transports me to a cool world where anyone could be a hero, when their family is threatened.

As a young teenager, I started reading in English. At first, I briefly abandoned the mystery genre to pick up a few Nick Hornby books. The first book I read in English -besides the bilingual Roald Dahl short stories that are the training bra of the young English speaker- was About a Boy. As it turns out, I bought it at a flea market in the South of France, and I was in such a rush to read it that I overcame my car sickness to read all of it during the road trip back to Normandy. Faithful to my principles, I stuck to Hornby for a while, until I came across a striking summary while shopping for books online. A widower who sees his supposedly deceased wife on a security camera video after 8 years, what’s not to like about that? This was my first encounter with my soon-to-be favorite author, Harlan Coben.

Adobe Photoshop PDF Well, hello there.                                 tellnoone

From then on, I was addicted. I had my dad order all of his books online, and for the first few years, I wanted them only in the paperback edition that you can see above, because I somehow felt it was important for my bookshelf to look flawless. I fell in love with both his recurring characters, and his stand-alone novels. I fell in love with his writing and learned a lot about English just taking it in and observing the idioms and the way he used his words. I liked his work so much that I even did something pretty embarrassing, with hindsight, that I may or may not confess to you later on.

Now, I don’t care so much about the edition, as long as I can read the newest Coben book every Spring. This year, I bought it on Amazon right away. One of my lit professors asked me to be a guest speaker in her French class, and to thank me, she sent me an Amazon gift card. I hope she never knows that this is what I used it for:

5163+SkUKBL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ I’m pretty sure this is NOT by Victor Hugo. Thanks, Professor G.!

 

 

 

Well, hello.

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Hi there. So, I guess I’m supposed to introduce myself and say why I’m here, right? Well, that’s gonna be tough, because I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I just kinda wanted to have my own space where I could go on rants and ramble on. I don’t really know what I want this to be, actually. It could go from random chitchats about life, to movie, book, TV show reviews. I’m a grad student, currently going for a PhD, so I’m looking to write about other things than the representation of creolization in Francophone literature. Which brings me to the next thing you need to know: I am French, so be kind; English is not my first language, even if I’m about to celebrate 5 years of living in America!

I’ve never blogged before, which is surprising when you know me, because I LOVE to talk. I am constantly talking everyone’s ears off, and can’t shut up about most things I’m excited about. Like my favorite TV shows. Boy, if I could write as much about French literature as I can ramble about Jane the Virgin, I would be Dr. M-Pug, PhD by now, with 4 published books and multiple -weekly, really- articles. But that’s not how the cookie crumbles, is it? So, bottom line, I love to talk about useless things, or rather, things that can in no way help my life. So why haven’t I tried to blog before? Well, the answer is simple: I never dared to. Blogging always sounded attractive to me, but it also sounded very scary. Even if you never give your name or show your face, you still put yourself out there, and let the world (ok, I know, it’s not THE WORLD, it’s realistically a couple of people, but for the sake of the argument…) know how you feel and what goes through your head. When people that I know start a blog and open up to *the world*, I’m in awe of their courage. For example, a girl who was in grad school with me started a blog last year. We were never close friends but we were friendly, and kept each other on Facebook after graduation, and when I saw she had opened a blog to talk about her experiences as a new mom, I was like ‘wow, that’s ballsy’. Not because I find the enterprise silly or anything, but more because the subject matter is so personal and yet sharing it can prove helpful (maybe life-saving?) to others. Anyways, even if I didn’t really stay in touch with this woman, I always read her new posts, and I feel like I know her better because of that. Blogging is a great way to channel your thoughts, put them into words, recycle your energy and maybe even sometimes, understand yourself better? But I had never had the guts to do it. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to pour my heart out on these pages -oh man, if you were looking for some deep content, you’re gonna be disappointed-,  at the moment I have nothing super deep to share. But I’m gonna try and use this as a fun way to express my thoughts and talk about the things I like, as an outlet to my -very- verbal academic life.

So, I decided to start blogging now for a very lame reason. Nothing inspiring, nothing profound. I have time on my hands -it’s summer and I have no classes-, and after talking to one of my professors, I realized that I need some writing practice in order to publish more. Because I need to publish -or perish- about really complex, really boring stuff, I never thought that writing a blog about silly things could help, but as it turns out, when it comes to writing, anything helps. So, instead of limiting my silliness to bi-weekly emails to my best friend, I’m going to channel it here.

Just so you know, I’ve been writing this pathetic little rant for the past day and a half, but can’t bring myself to publish it, because let’s face it, it really is a lousy first article. But hey, I’m probably not gonna do better in the near future, and if I don’t publish a first article, this blog is empty, so I’m gonna go ahead and press the dreaded button!

Thanks for listening, and I hope to see you guys soon!