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Summer is Sizzling: Lisons Ensemble!

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Summer Reading List 2017

As much as I love hanging out by the beach and playing volleyball, nothing compares to relaxing with a good book in the summer sun. The only challenge is finding the right thing to read before the Chicago cold returns. Luckily, the Brown Médiathèque has chosen a dozen books that are the perfect companion for the season. Some are fast-paced romances that will fit in your hectic schedule; others will give your mind a workout on days when you’re not feeling the gym.

Below are some of my favorites from the selection.

Fiction (en français)

Que serais-je sans toi? by Guillaume Musso

The concept of Musso’s novel is far from simple, so a sentence-long summary can’t do it justice. It goes like this: Gabrielle, an American woman, is the daughter of a world-famous art thief. Her father, Archibald, is on the run from a young Parisian cop named Martin. The Frenchman just so happens to be Gabrielle’s first love. Their short affair ended fifteen years prior to the novel’s events, but feelings still remain for both of them.

As you might guess from the summary above, Que serais-je sans toi? is a light-hearted story. If you are looking for a philosophical treatise, this isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking to pass time while waiting for the A/C to be fixed, this book is worth checking out.

Biography (in English) 

Émilie du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment by Judith P. Zinsser

Zinsser’s biography covers the subject of our June salon event, Émilie du Châtelet. As Émilie was a woman of many interests, readers will easily find something in common with her. I, for one, was intrigued with her Discours sur le bonheur, a series of writings on the meaning of happiness. Others may be interested in her translation of Newton, which remains one of the most used editions in the francophone world. And, indeed, she did have torrid affairs with men like Voltaire, so her personal life reads like a soap opera.

Non-Fiction (in English)

The Streets of Paris: A Guide to the City of Light Following in the Footsteps of Famous Parisians Throughout History by Susan Cahill

It’s hard to walk around Paris without thinking of the figures who have been there before you. After all, something as nondescript as a corner café could have been your favorite writer’s hang-out spot. Streets of Paris was written with this phenomenon in mind. Susan Cahill takes you on a tour through the capital, bringing with her luminaries like Madame Curie and Edith Piaf. With this guide, you can be in Le Marais and Lincoln Park at the same time.

If any of these titles are to your liking, stop by the médiathèque on the second floor of the Alliance.

Bonne lecture!

Ethan Safron

Read our interview with Sophie Loubière!

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Sophie Loubière



Sophie Loubière is a French journalist and writer who already published more than ten novels.
She is urrently working on a new one, Bloody Coffee and this one will be set in Chicago! Before listening to her next week, come read about her in our exclusive interview;

What got you interested in writing?

The unlimited power of the words, the infinite possibilities to tell a story, the unique parfume of liberty I can smell while I’m writing…

How do you choose what genre to write?

I don’t choose. The novel tells it on its own.

Where do you find inspiration?

In newspapers and in my own life, drawing my inspiration from what affects me intimately. A great source of ideas also comes from travels I’ve done, like the route 66 in 2011, and my visit to Chautauqua Institution, NY, in 2014. Nature and vestiges of the past moved me deeply.

How do you go about starting a novel?

I often start a novel from two new items I imbricate to make a story. Nothing is stronger than true stories.

What is the most difficult part about writing?

To stay concentrated on your work even if the world is collapsing around you – or the cat is jumping on the computer keyboard, erasing your chapter.

What is your favorite part about writing?

When a character escapes from me and starts to do things he’s not supposed to do, and when I’m done with my first chapter that I had rewritten about 100 times in two years.

What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a novel?

With tears in my eyes, exhausted, I climb down the stairs, go to the living room to inform my husband and children about the good news. And they all ask what’s for dinner.

What is your favorite book to read?

(That’s a hard one!) The one I haven’t written yet.

Want to hear more from Sophie? Come to our free Avec L’Auteur event on Monday, February 6… in French!

Library Recommendations: Francophone African Literature

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The Brown Médiathèque at the Alliance has a great selection of Francophone novels from Africa. Culturethèque, the online French library, also offers Francophone African literature. Alliance members have FREE access to Culturethèque! Register here. You can browse the online selections for ‘Littérature Afrique du Nord’ here and ‘Littérature Afrique Noire’ here.

Check out this list of 5 must-reads from talented African authors! All of these books are available at our library or on Culturethèque.

verrecasse1. Verre cassé by Alain Mabanckou
*Selection for Café Littérature
*More books by Mabanckou on Culturethèque here

“A man known as Broken Glass (Verre Cassé) is a regular in Credit Gone West, a run-down bar in the Congo; the bar’s owner, aka the Stubborn Snail, selects him to record the stories of the bar’s other sodden, down-and-out habitués. That slight premise is all Mabanckou needs to spin a raucous tale of the regulars, the bar, corrupt and inept government, and life in Trois-Cents, an impoverished district of an unnamed city…it is the author’s sense of humor—and he can find humor in even the most tragic or vulgar circumstances—that makes Broken Glass a memorable and successful novel.” –Booklist

About the author:
Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo-Brazzaville in 1966. He is a Francophone Congolese poet and novelist whose absurd sense of humor resulted in his being known in France as “the African Samuel Beckett.” Learn more here.

femmesdalger2. Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement by Assia Djebar

“Algerian-born writer and filmmaker Djebar… makes her American debut with a collection offering memorable portraits of Arabic women in a time of change. Spanning the years 1958 to 1979, a period when Algeria fought a bitter war of independence from France and experienced a socialist revolution, Djebar’s stories are intended to be ‘the voice of all the women they’ve kept walled in’ in Islamic society…. As much a critique as a picture of [this] society, Djebar’s debut―plus its informative afterword―is an elegant and evocative introduction to a too little-known world.” –Kirkus Reviews

About the author:
Assia Djebar (1936-2015) was born in Cherchell, French Algeria. Her novel Fantasia, an Algerian Cavalcade won the Franco-Arab Friendship Prize and she has written and directed two feature-length films. Learn more here.



3. L’enfant de sable by Tahar Ben Jellounlenfantdesable
*More books by Ben Jelloun on Culturethèque here

“Seemingly cursed to father only daughters in a society that devalues females, an Arab conceals the birth of an eighth girl by proclaiming the child, Ahmed, a son and heir. The tale that follows is a cynical, dreamlike exploration of the roles into which Arab men and women are shaped: shackles to some, yet a clear identity and a well-defined bridge connecting the individual to society.” –Publisher’s Weekly

About the author:
Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1944 and has lived in France since 1971. He is an internationally recognized novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist, and has received numerous awards for his works. Learn more here.


4. Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoudmedium
*Available on Culturethèque here

“A thrilling retelling of Albert Camus’s 1942 classic, The Stranger, from the perspective of the brother of the Arab killed by Meursault, Camus’s antihero. The novel…not only breathes new life into The Stranger; it also offers a bracing critique of postcolonial Algeria… The premise is ingenious: that The Stranger, about the murder of an unnamed Arab on an Algiers beach, was a true story…Meursault is less a critique of The Stranger than its postcolonial sequel.” –The New York Times Magazine

About the author:
Kamel Daoud is an Algerian journalist based in Oran. A finalist for the Prix Goncourt, Meursault, contre-enquête won the Prix François Mauriac and the Prix des Cinq-Continents de la francophonie. Learn more here.



5. Aya de Yopougon by Marguerite Abouetaya

“Studious Aya and her flighty party-girl friends, Adjoua and Bintou, live in suburban Ivory Coast in 1978. Aya hopes to continue her studies and become a doctor, while her father, a manager at a local brewery, would rather see her marry well…This realistic story immerses readers in the life of an Ivorian teen of the period. Yet for those familiar with the civil unrest occurring in this part of Africa during the ensuing years, the simplicity of life depicted can’t help but be extra poignant…This pleasing volume will make a good addition to graphic-novel collections.” –School Library Journal

About the author:
Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1971 and now lives outside of Paris. Her graphic novel series taps into Abouet’s childhood memories of Ivory Coast in the 1970s. More than 300,000 copies of Aya have been sold and it has been translated into 12 languages, including English. Learn more here.