Last weekend, I went to the Franco-American Centre at the University of Maine at Orono, which hosted “its sixth annual gathering (or Rassemblement) of Franco-American writers, artists, and creatives. The annual event, organized by UMaine’s Franco American Programs, aims to create a culturally supportive space in which members of the Franco-American creative community can share their work.” (The quotation was taken from an invitation sent by the Centre’s director, Susan Pinette, and I used this because it states so well the raison d’être for the event.)
I’ve been going to Rassemblement from the beginning, and what a treat it is to spend time with so many creative Franco-Americans.
In the past on this blog, I’ve written a brief history of Franco-Americans in Maine and how they comprise about a third of the state’s population. (Most of our ancestors migrated from French Canada in the mid- to late 1800s.) Because of the history of discrimination and repression, many Maine Franco-Americans feel invisible, and I understand this is also true for Franco-Americans in other parts of New England.
When we come together for Rassemblement, we Franco-American creatives no longer feel invisible. We read our poetry and fiction. We present our research projects. We perform our pieces, many of them centered on what it means to be Franco-American in all its various aspects. We listen attentively to each other, so grateful not to feel invisible anymore.
This year, there were a number of young Franco-American students who either read poetry or spoke about being Franco-American. What a treat to have them there! Most of the “regulars” who come to Rassemblement are what might be considered, ahem, mature. To have so many younger folks there was like having a fresh breeze blow through the event.
There were so many terrific presentations at Rassemblement, and I feel bad that I can’t describe them all. However even brief descriptions would make this post much too long.
Here are a few highlights from the Rassemblement:
Susan Pinette, the wonderful director, kicking off the event on Saturday morning.
The fabulous Susan Poulin, reading about her extraordinary aunt who was a nun.
Mitch Roberge, a UMO student, reading “Speak White,” a poem he wrote in French.
Steven Riel, a very fine poet, before his reading. Here’s an especially beautiful line from one of his poems: “Moonlight enters without knocking.”
And the talented Greg Chabot, performing one of his pieces about being Franco-American. Chabot maintains that “visibility comes from creation.”
I, of course, read from my novel Maya and the Book of Everything, and I was so proud to see it displayed on the table with other books and CDs.
And as a cherry on the sundae, I stayed at a nice little hotel down the road from the Franco-American Centre. By gum, it even had a room with a view.
A weekend with Franco-American creatives. A room with a view.
Who could ask for anything more?
Well, perhaps one not-so-little thing. I wish that you, readers, could have come to the event to hear all the talented Franco-American creatives present their work, to see the invisible made visible.
21 thoughts on “The Invisible Made Visible: A Gathering of Franco-American Writers, Artists, and Creatives”
Sounds like a very stimulating gathering. I’ve been a lot more interested in French Canadian culture since our last trip to Quebec. We went to a museum that laid out how Quebecois society was extremely conservative until the 1960s, then a great revival began. I wonder if something similar happened with French Americans.
French Americans have a very different history. David Vermette, a fellow Franco and friend, is writing a book about this, and I’ve a link to his blog, French North American, on my home page. Check it out if you get a chance. He’s a good writer and provides all sorts of historical details about Franco-Americans.
Sounds like a great program, creating a feeling of solidarity. I think the cultural bias persisted longer in Maine than in Mass. It was pretty much gone by the mid-60s. While my older sisters encountered it (along with anti-Catholicism), I didn’t. I do remember the ethnic jokes, but it included every immigrant class, so I never felt singled out. The late 60s opened up a lot around here, thankfully.
Yes, it lasted longer in Maine, I think. A smaller state with tighter control over its population.
These gatherings must be so good for the soul! That view from your hotel room looks good; a definite bonus to the weekend.
I have just started reading your book. It’s wonderful! I didn’t want to put it down this evening and eventually did so very reluctantly.
Very good for the soul. And thanks so much for the kind words about “Maya and the Book of Everything.” It’s such a thrill learning that my book is being read “across the pond.”
Clare, I had the same response to Maya. It grabbed me right away. : )
It’s wonderful 🙂
Many thanks, Clare! Your kind words mean so much to me.
Jodie, thanks so very much!
Your pictures capture the magic of the event. The earnest expressions on the speakers’ faces convey the importance of the gathering. Sounds like a nice variety of writing. Nice enough to be a spectator but even greater to be an integral part of the event and share your work! I have many fond memories of the American Holistic Nurses’ Association conferences. From the minute one walked in the door there was a sense of kinship.You will enjoy many more of these as you continue to share you r work.
Thanks, Beth! Yes, kinship.
It sounds like a wonderful gathering. Invisible no more. I thought of you yesterday, when I was unexpectedly in your neck of the woods. I was in Hebron (buying a spinning wheel) and in Turner (buying clematis at Hummingbird Farm) and drove through your town on my way home. I even went right by your lovely library! It’s a beautiful area you live in.
It was a wonderful gathering. If you’re ever in the area and have time for a visit, do let me know. The tea kettle’s always at the ready. We live about a mile from the library.
What a wonderful post, Laurie. I’m so glad you took part and have shared this post with us. Isn’t it great to get together with a group of people who share a common history in some way?
It sure is! Slowly, slowly, we are being heard.
I got a little teary about this post. I can tell it was a gathering of exceptional people. I so wish we had better access to these kinds of minds. I feel like deep thinkers tend to be quiet, while the knuckleheads take up all the airspace.
Jodie, I shared this with the group. You have helped make the invisible visible. Many, many thanks!
Oh, thank you, Laurie. I’m glad you shared.
It really made an impression on a lot of people. Many thanks to you!
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