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Monday, January 3, 2011

Excerpt from PARIS TO THE MOON

So in a last ditch effort to read in English, I picked up the final book--Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. It's not really that good. In the mid 90s, Adam picks up his life from New York and moves to Paris with his wife and kid. Not very original of an idea, and to make matters worse he writes for the New Yorker. Maybe I don't hold the mental capacity to comprehend the New Yorker, or maybe it really is just pretentious literature, but I don't jive well with ANYTHING I've read in that periodical. Which is why I was hesitant to open this book, and why I still have only read a few dozen pages.

But, out of the several hundred pages of observations that I have already read from other Americans living in Paris, there is one section that I liked in particular. I'm going to semi-legally repost it here.

His son is going to a French school, and Adam, who has an anglo accent in French, imagines how embarassed his son must feel when he goes in to school.

"He recognizes that his parents, his father particularly speaks with an Accent. and this brings onto him exactly the shame that my grandfather must have felt when his Yiddish-speaking father arrived to talk to HIS teachers at a Philadelphia public school. I try to have solid, parental discussions with his teachers, but as I do, I realize, uneasily, that in his eyes I am the alter kocker, the comic immigrant.

"'Zo, how the boy does?' he hears me saying in effect. 'He is good boy, no? he is feeling out the homeworks, isn't he?' I can see his small frame shudder, just perceptibly, at his father's words. I had thought to bring him the suavity of the French gamin, and instead I have brought onto him the shame of the immigrant child."

This is pretty much how I feel when I'm talking to my kids' friends. I talk in my heavily accented French, which is thusly translated by my kids into proper French. To paraphrase my ex boyfriend's Italian speaking mother, In English, I am limitless, I can truly be myself. In French, I don't have the wide flexibility to actually say what I want to say how I want to say.

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