Book Review: French Like Moi, A Midwesterner in Paris

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Book Review: French Like Moi, A Midwesterner in Paris
Early on in French Like Moi: A Midwesterner in Paris, Scott Dominic Carpenter explains the reason for the series of adventures and misadventures that he and his family experienced as a result of his desire—his wife might say obsession—to buy an apartment in Paris. As a kid my parents had dragooned me into French classes, and when this prepared me for no other career, I was dragooned into teaching the same language to other poor saps, ones who would eventually be dragooned into their own slot in the vicious cycle we call education. To polish my credentials, I’d been dragooning my family for extended stays here for years, lodging us in rat traps, each more squalid than the last… Parisian apartments. © Jordan Plihal, Unsplash Despite the irreverent tone, this is not only a humorous and distinctly unromantic view of life in the “City of Light,” it is also yet another love letter to France and the French. However, it is one that does not shrink from exposing their foibles while appreciating their strengths, and the various kinds of beauty, and pleasure, that are to be found everywhere in France. The book is a collection of essays, many of which were published before in other places, often in slightly different forms. It is organized into three sections: Came/Saw/Conquered, and I am not too sure, but I think it is an open question who or what has been conquered in the end—Paris? Or the author? Paris, from the Eiffel Tower. © Flicker, (CC BY 2.0) It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this is a lively romp through many of the situations that “foreigners” in Paris encounter. (Why is it that we so balk at seeing ourselves as foreigners? That is what we are when we are in another country, after all. But I digress…) Each of the chapters captures some aspect of the inherently comical ups and downs of dealing with the challenges of home maintenance, medical issues, visas, French education, buying things (and the more difficult task of trying to return them), and of course, the language itself. Because the author is a teacher of French it is somewhat comforting to know that despite his advanced level of fluency in the language, there are still moments, even for him. Of one situation, where he is trying to determine whether someone has really just been complaining to him about the failure of her neighbor to die, he writes:
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Lead photo credit : French Like Moi: A Midwesterner in Paris by Scott Dominic Carpenter. © Scott Dominic Carpenter

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and she writes frequently on France for a variety of publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the education abroad program of Queens College of the City University of New York; classes at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.; and Writing from the Heart workshop/retreats in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region (l’Aube).