It Stops With Me:
Portland Press Herald York County Edition
May 5, 2005
A recently published spunky autobiography of a Franco-American woman from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, gives cultural storytelling multi-generational appeal.
Too many Franco-Americans are quickly amalgamating into the mainstream of American culture without writing their special family stories. Fortunately, Charleen Touchette, a Woonsocket writer and artist now living in New Mexico, puts both of her pleasingly creative talents together in It Stops With Me: Memoir of a Cannuck Girl.
Touchette writes about her Franco-American roots by relating simple, often bittersweet and even brutal experiences growing up as a typical French Catholic girl in Woonsocket and later as an accomplished artist.
Moreover, Touchette energizes her autobiographys prose with a series of original black, and white and color print blocks. In other words, It Stops With Me expresses Touchettes Franco-American creativity using prose accentuated by her surprisingly cutting edge original art describing absorbing coming of age experiences. Her journey from a parochial Franco-American into her adult life is fraught with opportunities, along with unexpected harsh challenges. Her life is ordinary in some ways but hardly a nostalgic cake walk.
It Stops With Me is at its best when Touchette looks back and elevates normal Franco-American experiences to familiarities we can identify with. For example, she describes cooking with her Ma Tantes or getting ready to receive First Holy Communion at Woonsockets Eglise Précieux-Sang (Church of Precious Blood).
Discord begins at a young age. Growing up as a French Roman Catholic girl is an underlying theme. Touchettes typical childhood is without the benefit of feeling safe at home, as she depicts in one of her portraits of a Not a Picture Perfect Family.
Rather, Touchettes absorbing life story endures familial stress, social and personal conflicts, even leading to physical ailments, which haunt her into adult years.
Touchettes hard hitting narrative is set apart from others of the modern autobiographic genre by the intimate and complicated relationships she shares with her family. Delving even deeper into her private spiral are the intense personal investigations Touchette undertakes with regard to her sad relationship with her father.
Nevertheless, in spite of the particular circumstances, its typical of Franco-Americans to harbor deep attachments for their relatives and parents regardless of obvious flaws, shortcomings or even family violence. Female family role models are especially strong in Touchettes life. Although my Maman was a devout Catholic, she was a strong supporter of my right to freedom of expression, writes Touchette. In fact, her female relatives were outraged when Touchette even considered not going to college after high school. In her Woonsocket Franco-Americans world, Touchette writes about how curious it was to be singled out for college when no other woman in her family ever went beyond a high school education.
Throughout the autobiography, her French heritage is front and center, even when she embraces the peace of Judaism.
Many of the books chapters are charmingly led by simple French titles.
Touchettes talent as a creative writer moves the reader beyond the dark side of her autobiography. Using the power of words, she inspires us to learn more about her as an individual woman with a spellbinding story to tell.
Touchette does a good job explaining the pros and cons of the personal contrasts she inherited from her religious and ethnic roots. This is a well written autobiography, nominated for several book awards, with a progressive social focus.
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