Melanie Plante
by Jennifer Holweger

Monday, November 5, 2001 5:56:07 PM
From:  Jennifer Holweger
Subject: melaine plante
To:  FASWSTInterview


Melanie Plante.

I had the honor of interviewing Melaine at her home in Searsport, Maine.  As we were interviewing her husband who is also Franco-American gave input, as well as her sister Sandra and her Maman.  Melanie is a second generation American citizen.  Her husband, Dennis is a first generation American citizen from Wooster, Massachusetts.  Interesting dynamics÷and this also tells me that these people, as so many, have so much to tell and to share and it is often gone unnoticed.  Which I find a tragedy.  So an assignment like this gives an opportunity for some light to be shed on the stories.

Life growing up for Melaine and Dennis was completely different.  Melaine felt during her childhood that she was extremely accepted in her community.  She lived with her sister and one other sibling  in Biddeford for a majority of her childhood.  She and her siblings went to a Catholique Did she say this in French?  school where they were taught by nuns.  The morning classes were taught purely in French and were FRE, FRE HTY, MUS, WRITING, and REL. In the afternoon the classes were in English - SCI, MAT. For History class, the history the students learned was French history not Canadian.  Dennis grew up in Wooster, Massachusetts in a small Franco community.  Wooster is a large city comprised of numerous cultural minorities whom of which had their own individual cultural norms.  Dennis  remembers coming home with a black eye from school.  For High School, the minorities of the city were also separated, in an unspoken fashion.  All of the Italians went to one school as well as the French, the Irish and the Germans.  It was simply an accepted practice.  However, when there were basketball games or other sport games the tension was low simply for the commonality of Catholicism.  The students who were minorities had a common tie with each other and found that, they could commiserate because of their common struggle. 

"IF we spoke English around Memere it was an insult"  Melaine's Memere  was the pinnacle of the family.  Every Sunday it was expected that all members of the family would go to Memere's to have dinner together.Yes! They still carry this tradition on in France.  If they did not come, there would  be consequences!   Sunday dinner lasted between 4 and 5 hours.  There would be different seatings of people for eating dinner, and after dinner there was singing, dancing and violin playing.   Memere knew a little English and attempted to use it when she talked to the Grandchildren.  Melaine and Dennis have 2 children named Rebecca (Becky) and Jason - when Memere heard of these names she was very very disappointed! And  made it known.I've seen this happen also.  Memere and Melaine's Maman were very, very strong women!  Phew, if you made them angry watch out.  I had a taste of this when I was interviewing, Melaine's Maman was very very defensive regarding the money they had and customs .....and she  made it known! :)Interesting.  The Family get togethers on  Sunday afternoons ended after Memere passed away, she was the Family Elder that was revered and held at the highest of positions in the family.

Culture and Cultural Norms thru the Generations
Melaine's Family Generation  # of Kiddos funny expression here! Dennis' Family Generation # of Kiddos
    Memere 5      Memere 16 
    (a maman)       (a papa)
    Maman  3      Maman  10
    Melaine 2      Dennis  2

There is a very interesting phenomenon transiting through the generations of Franco-Americans.  At first, when generations entered the United States they were targeted because of their heritage...."Stupid Frenchmen" is a comment I heard referred to quite a bit.  The Plante family believed it was partly because of their accent and not speaking fluent English and the fact that these families came to the Northern States to take the lower class jobs such as working in woollen mills and industrial labour.  If you look at the cities where Franco-American families settled - Biddeford, Lewiston/Auburn, Machais, and Augusta  these cities were all textile and industrial centers for the state. Families wanted to lose their accents, they wanted to speak English at home so they could be like everybody else, they wanted to go towards the middle, towards the norm of society and thus = in this trasition lost their culture.  I asked the question, does it make them sad, yes but they don't mind and don't even seem to be very saddened by it, they see this cultural evolution as a necessary thing to be an American .The trade off, which decides what they get in return÷  Melaine's Maman was very, very defensive "I am an American, I am not a Franco- American!" "We are never going to -lose it (French Culture) completly"Is this a contradiction for her?  "But mom look at Jason and Becky, they have lost it!  Jason doesnt even speak French!!" -Melaine   "He doesnt have to speak French!" ? Maman Good point, you don't need the language to have the culture.

"We tend to be defensive in this day and age....." -Melaine

This was an amazing experience for me! And I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing these wonderful ladies !!!!   I hope everyone enjoyed reading!  **Also, I recieved their permission to publish this!**I am glad about this!

**Also, I recieved their permission to publish this!**I am glad about this!

Jenn Holweger


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