What I Learned by Writing My Memoir French Boy
November 17, 2023
11 AM PST | 12 PM MST | 1 PM CST | 2 PM EST
It was a surprise for me to discover as a child that French was not the majority language in Maine, let alone the US. I came to realize that my language and culture were marginal and not valued by the larger society. In addition, we were a people who had been defeated in the 1760 Conquest of Canada. In French Boy, I have had a field day writing about acculturation and assimilation (not the same by the way!) and attempting to honor my own ethnic mythology as I also struggle to find a place for myself in the society I will have to live in.
While each individual comes to know his/her otherness as a necessary step in maturation, a culturally different person must come to terms with a larger sense of cultural difference beyond personal psychological otherness and must incorporate that into his/her identity in a way that does not inhibit his/her human development.
What you will Learn
- The challenge of writing for a specific audience (my own ethnic group) which is hungry for its reflection in literature, and a general audience of thoughtful people interested in cultural diversity who don’t know we exist.
- About the immigrant experience of struggling with another people’s myths. This is the process of first acculturation and then possibly assimilation.
- Discoveries about the psychological development of the child I was. I have many memories of my developing autonomy—and ultimately of the loneliness that brings.
- The experience of discovering and accommodating otherness.
- About the challenge and gift of bilingualism and biculturalism
I wrote French Boy impelled by a strong desire to record the life of my community—the Francophone Canadian-American community of New England. This is a book about life in Franco-America in the 1950s. It uses my life as an organizing principle. A memoir that purports to be about more than the family story is not only about the individual who is its presenting subject but it is about something bigger, about some whole that the memoir subject is part of. I want to celebrate our experience, and I do not want the world to forget we were here.
Denis Ledoux grew up in a three-generation home with paternal grandparents who lived upstairs. As a child, he heard tales of his extended family and its history recounted by the family storyteller, his mémère.
It was a natural leap from his family stories to helping others to record their stories in well-written accounts that apply all the techniques of fiction writing to autobiography, family reminiscence, and scrapbooking.
In French Boy, Denis attempts to interpret the meaning of his life experience within the human experience.