Natalie Gutierrez | Staff Writer
Mystery, pregnancy, and more are the themes of the latest Book Club en Francais at FIU.
Le Cercle Français and its sister organization, Pi Delta Phi, hosted an online book club discussion on Feb. 13 at 8 pm. Club members discussed February’s book selection: Marion Brunet’s L’été circulaire, an award-winning mystery novel about 15-year-old Céline and her village’s reactions to her unexpected pregnancy.
Maria Antonieta Garcia is a teaching professor of French at FIU’s Department of Modern Languages, who initiated the club at Books & Books in 2015. The club previously met in person but moved to an online format following COVID-19.
For Garcia, it’s not just about the language – the culture is a crucial point to these readings as well.
“I try to choose a mix of French and Francophone authors. I do not have a specific genre. I just look for good books and good literature: the point is to promote Francophone literature,” said Garcia.
“We all need to read. This book club offers a chance to read and an opportunity for students to speak in French. It also builds a sense of community and a sense of belonging.”
Alexandra Leon, a junior double majoring in Biology and Natural and Applied Science, is the treasurer of both French organizations.
“Francophone culture is immense, and these French-speaking authors all have stories to tell. I feel that it is important to highlight these attributes and not focus solely on what we know. It is important to open yourself to new things,” said Leon.
“In this book club, there are many mature readers. We all gather around and discuss these books that usually talk about deep subjects that range from learning to accept yourself, as well as war and how it can affect the world.”
In addition, Garcia is intentional about the assigned readings because she believes in a multicultural approach to literature. The purpose of the club is to expose community members to Francophone writers who are not only from France but from other countries and parts of the world.
“When we read books from other places, then we learn about other cultures. I think the representation of French culture is important because the world is not reduced to America. Literature gives us a window to look at other cultures, and it is important to learn about the thoughts and values of different cultures,” said Garcia.
When asked about her decision to include L’été circulaire, Garcia explains that she was drawn to the novel’s exploration of complex family dynamics, parental abuse, and personal evolutions.
“This book is about life in small villages. People know everything about you, your whereabouts. This is a story about life transformation… and it is like a psychological study,” said Garcia.
FIU associate professor Maryse Pedousssaut, novelist Steven Raichlen, and lecturer Edgardo Rotman were among the many in attendance. Attendees examined the novel’s themes, as well as the significance of the novel’s title L’été circulaire, which translates to “The Summer of Reckoning” in English.
“It is circular because history repeats itself. The young girl experiences the same story as the mother, so there is a circularity throughout the novel. It is incredibly well-written,” said Garcia in French during the presentation.
During the event, Garcia drew attention to the literary elements that make it a “police” or crime novel. The villagers desperately attempt to find out who the biological father of Céline’s unborn child is.
“It is important to not close yourself off because either you’re afraid or do not know the language. This book club allows us to be more accepting of others and allows for an amicable space to grow,” said Leon.
The club meets monthly via Zoom. The upcoming selections include Laetitia Colombani’s La tresse, Yasmina Reza’s Babylon, and Guillaume Musso’s La vie secrète des écrivains.
Members can purchase these books online or at Books & Books for a discounted price.
You can learn more about Book Club en Français on Instagram (@frenchclubsfiu) and PantherConnect (https://fiu.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/le-cercle-francais) (https://fiu.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/pi-delta-phi).