Mercer University students in an advanced French course ended the spring semester with a virtual meeting with an award-winning writer. Kim Thúy, author of the autobiographical novel Rujoined Dr. Katherine Roseau’s Francophone transnational literature course on Zoom on April 26.
This special subjects course was entirely in French, with students reading three French novels and having all discussions in the language, including their conversation with Thúy. The authors of the books they studied were from former colonies of France and later immigrated.
Thúy fled Vietnam with her family after the war, settled in Quebec and now lives in Montreal. Ru won the French-language fiction award at the 2010 Governor General’s Awards and has been translated into dozens of languages.
The course aimed to expose students to the connections people have with France because of their past and the way they write about their experiences. Dr. Roseau, assistant professor of French, said that most of her French experiences, as well as the experiences of her students, took place in metropolitan France or are related to it, and the books they read offered a different perspective.
“The idea of the course was to give students a better understanding of cultures that are French-speaking but outside of Europe,” she said. “It was a unique opportunity for them to talk to someone from a multicultural background.”
Dr. Roseau wanted her students to be able to meet one of the three authors, and through a Facebook group, she discovered that Thúy often spoke with students. She contacted the author about the idea, and she readily accepted. The event was supported by the Caudill Moore Fund of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
The eight students in the course, all French majors and minors, chatted with Thúy for an hour and 15 minutes and asked him questions about his book, his childhood, Vietnamese cuisine, culture and more.
“She’s a beautiful soul. She was very generous with her time and answers. She also really connected with the students, really took the time to understand where they came from. It was a great way to end the semester,” said Dr. Roseau.
“One of the best things for me is that the students were able to talk to this famous author in their second language. Seeing their tongue in action like that was a valuable point.
Chandler Evans, a triple major in finance, economics and French, said he and his classmates weren’t sure what to expect when meeting the author or where to start their conversation, but Thúy was very easy going. who to tell.
“I think it was valuable to be able to put a face to a name and an experience to the name,” he said. “It was great to meet her, to talk with her, to understand why she wrote the book. She told us a whole bunch of stories and joked with us.
Alex Tirello, a double major in English and French literature, said meeting Thúy was the highlight of her semester. She asked the author about his most vivid childhood memories and enjoyed hearing him talk about cultural traditions. She said it was very special to have Thúy speak directly to her about his life, and it gave her a better understanding of the book.
“She was probably the most down-to-earth person I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. I was able to appreciate his story more, both the book and his personal story. She was very honest and upfront in what she told us,” Tirello said. “It was really enriching. Actually meeting the person who experienced what you read makes it all the more real.