Contes d'une grand-mère louisianaise.
Sidonie de La Houssaye. Introduction and notes
by Jonathan Vidrine.
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d'une grand-mère louisianaise. Sidonie
de La Houssaye. Introduction and notes by Jonathan Vidrine.
“You are familiar with my circumstances,
my dear sir; my pen is my livelihood, as
well as my childrens’,” Sidonie de La Houssaye confided
to George Washington Cable in 1884. If this simple statement did
nothing more than show the fortitude of a desperate widow, it would
already be worthy of note. However, de La Houssaye offers a glimpse
of her steadfast determination to carve out a niche for herself
among French-speaking writers of the New World. Throughout her life,
buffeted repeatedly by reversals of fate and fortune, she held fast
to the two duties most sacred to her: raising her orphaned grandchildren
The anthology, Contes d’une grand-mère
louisianaise, transcribed, edited and presented by Jonathan
Vidrine, unites Sidonie de La Houssaye’s twin passions. Underneath
the hard exterior of a rough and tumble schoolmarm, de La Houssaye,
nurtured an audacious literary imagination that produced such daring
works as her Quarteronnes de la Nouvelle-Orléans.
While her stories written to teach her young students to read leave
behind the shocking themes found in her Quarteronnes, her
social vision remains unchanged. Antiracist and proto-feminist,
de La Houssaye sought to inculcate in her young readers values that
were threatened by southern conservatism, American capitalism, and
crushing poverty. From her “Petits Soldats” to her “Petits
Vagabonds,” empathy and a quest for egalitarian ideals triumph
over avariciousness, cruelty and disloyalty. Perhaps the greatest
merit of these Contes d’une grand-mère louisianaise
is that they distill to the purest and most moving form the notions
of social justice that characterize de La Houssaye’s work.
In this, they offer us a key to understanding the entire œuvre
of this prolific Creole writer.