January 29, 2008 Contact: Susan Pinette, 581-3791 Orono
A group of University of Maine faculty members who are among the authors of a recently published collection of essays, stories, plays, poetry, songs and art that reflect Franco-American life and culture in Maine will read from their work Feb. 14 at 12:15 p.m. at the Franco American Centre on the Orono campus.
Voyages: A Maine Franco-American Reader was published in 2007 by Tilbury House in Gardiner. Among the coauthors are Rhea Cote Robbins, adjunct professor of Women’s Studies and Franco American Studies; Yvon Labbe, director the Franco American Centre; Kristin Langellier, professor of Communication and Journalism; Jim Bishop, a Continuing and Distance Education faculty member; and Nelson Madore, a Thomas College professor and former Waterville mayor.
The book was edited by Madore and Barry Rodrigue, a professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College.
The Feb. 14 event also will celebrate the publication of French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets, a collection of Franco American poetry.
The public is invited to the Feb. 14 reading and book signing. Books will be available for purchase.
Media contact: George Manlove at (207) 581-3756
ORONO – Mouth-watering aromas of North American French cuisine – including succulent tourtière (meat pie), chicken stew, salmon pie and desserts – will permeate the atmosphere in the UMaine Franco-American Centre at Crossland Hall Feb. 24, as the centre invites the public to help celebrate Mardi Gras from noon to 3 p.m. The event is free.
For students, staff, faculty and members of the public, the afternoon will be an unusual opportunity to sample a buffet of traditional North American French cooking. For people who have never tried French-Canadian tourtière or cretons/cortons, a popular paté or pork spread, this is the time to try it, says Lisa Desjardins Michaud, the Franco-American Centre’s communications coordinator. The afternoon also will feature the traditional and easy-to-prepare pancake-like Acadian ployes, and traditional home-style baked beans. Desserts include molasses cookies, mini cream puffs, mini éclairs, and date squares. The event also is a time to learn about Mardi Gras from the Franco-American perspective, according to Michaud, and to experience the raison d’être of the Franco-American Centre. “This is an opportunity for people in the area who are of French-Canadian descent to taste and experience la culture des ancêtres, in a friendly, casual, warm ambiance,” says Michaud. “This is a celebration.” Mardi Gras at the Franco-American Centre will bring French tradition to the campus, she adds. “It’s important to celebrate and to create awareness of our culture at the University of Maine.”
Mardi Gras, translated, means Fat Tuesday. It is a day of feasting and celebration before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, the traditional Catholic period of abstinence and fasting. Mardi Gras is celebrated 47 days before Easter. Michaud, who personally will contribute food to the feast, is working with a team of volunteers from the community and the university, in addition to the University of Maine campus catering service, which will prepare some of the food in the North-American French tradition.
And for a literary pièce de résistance, which will provide a taste of Franco-American culture, Kristin Langellier and Eric Peterson, of the UMaine Communications & Journalism Department, will sign copies of their new book “Storytelling in Daily Life,” which explores various forms of narratives and storytelling, including Maine Franco-Americans’ personal histories as preserved through family storytelling.
For additional information, Michaud is available by telephone at (207) 581-3789. The Franco-American Centre, located in Crossland Hall next to Alfond Arena, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
By Anthony Saucier, Of the NEWS Staff
Differing views on the war with Iraq cannot be allowed to upset long-term collaborations between the United States and France, according to the French diplomat for New England. Speaking at a reception at the Franco-American Centre at the University of Maine, Thierry Vankerk-Hoven, the Consul General of France in Boston, said that the period of differences soon would be history. “We have lived through a very difficult time in our bilateral mediations,” Vankerk-Hoven said to the two dozen people at the center. “France and the U.S. have to work together to fight the threat of terrorism. The important thing is to maintain a close dialog.” While the French government didn’t support the U.S.-led war with Iraq, the two countries maintain similar philosophies. “The United States and France can have differing opinions,” Vankerk-Hoven said. “We share the same values and principles on the defense of freedom.”
In his first trip to Maine since taking office six months ago, Vankerk-Hoven spent the day talking to Gov. John Baldacci and legislators in Augusta about the present climate of French-American relations and the preservation of Franco-American culture. Originally from Paris, Vankerk-Hoven previously served at French embassies in Madrid, London and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He said after the reception that he hasn’t really experienced the ‘French bashing’ felt by French people in other parts of the country. Similarly, ‘freedom fries’ and other antagonisms just don’t make sense, he said. “It’s ridiculous to have this sort of reaction at this point, especially when we have had such a long history of collaboration,” Vankerk-Hoven said. Close cooperation between the two countries is necessary to solve regional crises such as the Middle East conflict, Vankerk-Hoven said. “The important thing now is to work together and try to adopt a common position in the challenges we will face,” he said.
Media contact: Joe Carr at (207) 581-3571 Orono
On Thursday, April 17, the University of Maine Press will officially launch the republication of the long-out-of-print Franco-American classic novel, Papa Martel, by Lewiston author Gérard Robichaud. In honor of this event, the University of Maine English Department, the Franco-American Centre, the Franco-American Studies Program, and the UMaine Press will co-host a book-signing reception and readings by Robichaud, now 94, and two other Maine Franco-American writers. Rhea Coté Robbins, of Brewer, author of Wednesday’s Child, and Waterville native Grégoire Chabot, author of Jacques Cartier Discovers America, will read from their works. The book signing reception will be held at 4 p.m. followed by the readings and discussion with the authors from 4:30-6:00, at the Franco-American Centre in the Crossland Hall on the University of Maine campus. The new edition of Papa Martel will be on sale at the event, which is free and open to the public.
Papa Martel, which was originally published by Doubleday in 1961,is the loosely autobiographical story of a Franco-American family, led by Louis Martel. The story is related through the coming of age of his nine children, from 1919 to 1937, with flashbacks to the youthful premarital years of Louis and his future wife Cecile. On a second level, the novel draws out the social context of this distinct chapter in the four-hundred-year Francophone presence in North America. The story is set in Groveton, Maine, an unabashedly Franco and Catholic town loosely based on Lewiston, Maine, the town of Robichaud’s boyhood. Papa Martel, a contract carpenter who travels throughout Maine for work, fills his children with stories of Acadie, their ancestral homeland, in a sense binding his family to the much larger “family” of French in North America.
“It is the story of a strong and loving family,” Robichaud says of his novel. “In accents tender and light-hearted, it speaks of births, marriages and deaths, of affection and love and mutual support given without question, of mutual respect and in-family customs and traditions that last, of a medieval faith that endures to this day in spite of it all.”
Robichaud, whose father was also a contract carpenter, was born in 1908 and left his home in Lewiston at the age of 12, two years after his mother died, to study in a preparatory school in Montreal with the intention of becoming a priest. Like a character in his book, he left the seminary and worked for a short time at a bank in Connecticut before being drawn to New York City. He did not learn English until he was nearly twenty. In 1941, Robichaud enlisted in the Army and served in the Pacific until 1945. He entertained his fellow soldiers with stories of his life in Lewiston. He arrived back in New York on VJ-Day and met his future wife, Elizabeth, that very night. He enrolled in a writing program at Columbia University in 1951 and, at the urging of his wife, began chronicling the family stories he had shared with her and his Army buddies. Those stories formed the basis for Papa Martel.
Recently, the Baxter Society of Portland included Papa Martel on its list of 100 books that reveal the history of Maine and the life of its people. The book has been a favorite in university classes and town library discussions.
“That Papa Martel manages after all these years to home in under our highly developed radar and still touch us suggests a sustaining power beyond the surface appeal of the family’s winning ways,” says Jim Bishop, a lecturer in English at UMaine, who wrote the introduction to the new edition.
Robichaud, who received an honorary degree from UMaine in 1991, has published one other novel, Apple of His Eye, and continues to work on a novel about his war years in the South Pacific.
Since seating will be limited, those who plan to attend the April 17 event are encouraged to contact Yvon Labbe at the Franco-American Centre, 581-3764 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jim Bishop, 581-3618 or Jim_Bishop@umit.maine.edu.
For spring semester 2003, the Franco American Studies interdisciplinary faculty reading group will be reading Ian McKay’s The Quest of the Folk. Ian McKay is a Professor of History at Queen’s University. His research interests lie in Canadian cultural history and in the economic and social history of the Atlantic Region of Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia is a genealogy of the myth of the folk in Nova Scotia. We will meet two times this semester. On March 28th we will discuss the first two chapters and on April 25th we will discuss the remaining three. We will meet from 4-6pm in the Franco American Center Library (Crossland Alumni Center). The book as well as a xeroxed copy have been put on reserve in the library under the course code REA 001. Please join us! Contact the Franco American Studies office at 581-3791 or Susan Pinette on First Class for more information.
The Franco American Studies Faculty Reading Group The aim of this group is to examine challenging texts within cultural studies, including but not limited to the following topics: language and identity; post-colonialism; language politics; the uses of history in identity formation, multiculturalism, gender, nationalism, the “literary” and ethnography, and “la francophonie.” It is hoped that these topics will be discussed from a variety of approaches in an interdisciplinary manner. Knowledge of Franco American issues is not necessary.