Book Reviews

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A Cajun in France:Journeys To Assimilations: Sidney Bellard shares the story of his life.

                                                                                       

By Matthew Roy, Tangi Digest

In my time, I have read many biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and journal entries. To be honest, I don’t usually enjoy reading them. However, I recently had the pleasure of reading the story of “Pierre,” a Cajun man who faced the challenges of becoming an assimilated American. In reading his story, I ended up feeling a deeper connection to my own heritage and family.

In his book “A Cajun in France: Journeys to Assimilations,” Sidney “Pierre” Bellard retells his family’s heritage, the traditions of Cajun life in southwest Louisiana and his family’s generational struggles. Readers follow the path he traveled to become literate, become an educator, assimilate into Cajun, American, and later, French culture.

Bellard was born into a French-speaking Cajun family in southwest Louisiana. Like many Cajun families, his history tracked back to a time before there was a state of Louisiana or even the United States of America.

“I always realized my life was not a normal life, my background was not normal,” Bellard said. “I had started out speaking only French as a child and went to school in first grade. The experiences were very different for me than for many other students. Can you envision yourself in first grade and few students speak like you?”

Bellard mentioned that in his generation, most young people tried to hide the fact they were Cajun and spoke French. “For some reason I reacted differently,” he said. “I wanted to remember it, improve it. I kept speaking French, I had to. My parents spoke only French.”Later in his life, Bellard desired to be able to not only speak his native language, but be fully literate in it.

This book is a light-hearted retelling of his life, going from his youth and education to his days as an educator and through his 17 different trips to France. Within the story of his life, we see the story of his family and how they played such an important part in his choices to hold onto his native language and traditions.

Coming from Cajun heritage myself, I found Bellard’s book was not just a story about his family and his journey, but the story of many Cajun families and people. “That’s my first audience, people who lived this particular experience,” Bellard said.

However, Bellard hopes his second audience will go past the Cajun heritage. “You don’t have to be Cajun to have this experience,” he said. “It’s simply an immigrant experience in America where multiple nationalities came for a better life and to achieve assimilation.”

Written in an overall light and humorous manner, the book enlightens readers on some quintessential traditions in Cajun life, such as the dances, songs and food. If you are from a Cajun background, this book is a must read. However, like Bellard implied, this is a book that many people can relate to, not just those of Cajun or French background. If you are interested in giving “A Cajun in France: Journeys to Assimilation” a read, you can buy it at www.amazon.com/Cajun-France-Assimilations-encounters-cultures-Cajun.

Top Customer Reviews on Amazon.com, All Five Stars

5.0 out of 5 stars A successful journey!

By K.Rhodes on May 5, 2017

I came across this book accidentally, and immediately purchased it. You see, back in the late 1960s/early 1970s, I was a student of Mr. Bellard’s. I had no idea of his life situation — that English was his second language (!), that his parents were unable to read and write in any language, and that he had grown up in such poverty. I admired him as a teacher when I was his student, and now have an even greater admiration for him knowing the circumstances that led to his becoming that teacher. Coincidentally, I have also very much enjoyed vacationing in France, and hope to live there temporarily and explore more of the country when I am retired and no longer working full-time. In short, I enjoyed this book very much, and think that anyone who is interested in traveling to France, or has an interest in Cajun culture, would enjoy reading it too. If you read this, Mr. Bellard, congratulations on a most productive and successful career, and I hope you will continue to have many happy years and travels in the future! You have “assimilated” very well!

5.0 out of 5 stars So enjoyed reading this book

By mignonne martin on December 23, 2016

So enjoyed reading this book. If you grew up in the south during the time from 1940 forward, you will especially identify with the life style, the hardships, the emphasis on work ethic and family values. A well written book with a feel of experiencing the events with the author. The information learned about France through the eyes of this man, highlights the many places France offers to anyone the epitome of what France is. The transition from France to Nova Scotia to the expulsion to South Louisiana is explained in a way that captures the hearts of the people. The authors climb from a shack to the top is well worth the read.

5.0 out of 5 stars France from a Cajun-American point of view

By ONeil DeNoux on May 4, 2017

A timeworn journey through France by a Cajun (if you don’t know what a Cajun is – shame on you). Google the word and learn. Sidney takes us on an unforgettable journey.

5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book!

ByTDN on January 8, 2017

Being of Cajun descent, I could readily identify with the author. However, the book isn’t only for Cajuns, but an inspiration to everyone that hard work does wonders in achieving goals. Those goals were accomplished for the author as you will find as you read through the pages. Cajuns are often a humorous lot, and the author doesn’t fail in bringing out the smiles. His France visits were so descriptive that I could imagine I was there also. I was a little sorry to get to the end. A really good read for everyone!

5.0 out of 5 stars Good read….recommend it!

By James J. Loyd on January 27, 2017

Really enjoyed reading about Pierre, as he made his way from an impoverished life in the Cajun culture of Louisiana, to a successful career in education. Along the way, I learned what it was like, to not only grow up in the area he grew up, but also to learn of the interesting customs of that period. Pierre told of the challenges he faced and how he overcame them to assimilate into two worlds. Good read!

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Cajun’s View

Bybld22on January 13, 2017

In reading the book I very closely related my own upbringing and events in a small South Louisiana town. In fact, Pierre could have easily been Edward. Once out of high school, the paths diverged. For anyone growing up in South Louisiana this book is an entertaining read.

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

By Wino on February 2, 2017

Great book, enjoyed reading

5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring story that should be read by all high school students throughout the southern United States

By Mary Perrin on June 8, 2017

I absolutely loved this inspirational book. Disclaimer: I was its editor, and have never been driven to write a review about one of my clients’ books, but this gripping and yet often humorous tale of a young Cajun boy growing up in south Louisiana in the ’40s and 50s needs to be read.

Even though little Pierre’s family had been in America for many generations, the Cajun French language they spoke and their rural sharecropping lifestyle prevented them from ever assimilating into American Society. Despite a total lack of family educational values, Pierre barely scraped by in school, but, surprising even himself, he became the first in his extended family to graduate from high school. And because of a powerful family work ethic and an unparalleled drive, this noble character slowly began to teach himself to overcome his poor grades, lack of study skills, and a desperate financial situation, and became the first in his family to graduate from college. From then on, Pierre continued to scratch and scrape his way forward, finally assimilating solidly into American middle class. Always working like a Trojan, whether it be with his hobbies of bike riding, bodybuilding and traveling, or his chosen career as an educator, He achieved success after success.

Pierre is the quintessential phoenix slowly rising from the ashes of familial illiteracy and poverty. I strongly believe that this elevating and uplifting book should be required reading for all high school students throughout the poverty-stricken southern United States.

5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful!

Very insightful! Interesting read on a perspective of a culture of which I was previously unaware. It is good to have a better understanding of different upbringings and the challenges and joys we all experience in life’s journey.

5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK! YOU WILL NOT WANT TO PUT IT DOWN!

By JLZ on March 7, 2017

Format: Paperback

Prior to reading the author’s book, I had not given much thought to the processes and difficulties of assimilations of people or their ancestors who left their places of origin and settled among people of different cultures. Particularly referenced in this book are those who had left their home country of France and settled in Nova Scotia where they prospered and became known as Acadians. Unfortunately they were exiled to many countries and parts of what is now the United States. Many eventually made their way to Louisiana. Like the author, these are among my ancestors, too. Yet, despite being of the same generation and from the same general area as the author, my experiences growing up were vastly different from his. His ancestors and his parents had not assimilated into the world of education, including speaking English, reading, and writing, as quickly as others of the same generations. He leaves no doubt that the absence of educational stimulation in his home from the first through the twelfth grade was the major deterrent to his interest in school. The stories of his childhood into young adulthood are fascinating as his vivid memories come alive for the reader. There are fully descriptive stories of Cajun culture. During his college and work years, his interests became centered in the field of education. With Cajun French being his first language, he developed a passion for visiting France, and he became proficient in standard French. His accounts of his trips to France are very engaging. I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it to others. It may lead some to recognize their own unique life’s experiences which may have prevented them from achieving their potential. They may be inspired to pursue their own “vision” of achieving self-actualization. The book could also be useful at educational institutions in the United States and France in exposing students, teachers, and others to the value of education and language as very strong components of assimilation into new cultures. The author should be very proud of his life’s accomplishments. Accolades to him for his perseverance in writing and publishing his book.

This book stirred some good memories, gave me some insight into a shared …, July 8, 2017

By 

Whistler

Verified Purchase

This review is from: A Cajun in France: Journeys to Assimilations: Travel with Pierre on his most unlikely voyages where he encounters the challenges of poverty, … distinct cultures-Cajun, American and French. (Paperback)

I am also of Acadian descent, grew up in le grand marais in Welsh, LA, and share an interest in education, history and assimilation. Although my early years were not as French-immersed as Mr. Bellard, my mother did not speak English until she attended school, and my maternal grandmother, who lived next to my family, could not speak English until my mother was in high school.

This book stirred some good memories, gave me some insight into a shared ancestral culture, and provides some encouragement to move back to South Louisiana to retire and to, hopefully … much later, have my bones interred with “my people”.

– A Cajun from Louisiana in Texas

This a a great book with moments of humor and a poignant story of a young man’s triumph over adversity!, June 18, 2017

By 

Amazon Customer

Verified Purchase

This review is from: A Cajun in France: Journeys to Assimilations: Travel with Pierre on his most unlikely voyages where he encounters the challenges of poverty, … distinct cultures-Cajun, American and French. (Paperback)

As a 51 year old I grew up during a time period where my family was blessed to able to provide not only the necessities but also the extras like vacations, private schools, etc. As a child I did not know what it was to not have what we consider today bare necessities like shoes for school or running water. There was never a feeling I did not belong in my town, my school, or among my peers. There also was never a language barrier to overcome and this book opens your eyes to the obstacles those around us face when all the fore mentioned things are not present in their lives. The book is a reminder to be thankful for all the advantages we have today and how no matter what the struggle you face, with perseverance, hard work, and opportunities along the way, a wonderful life can be obtained.

A review of A Cajun in France: Journeys to Assimilations

By Dr. Sam Dauzat & Dr. Jo Ann Dauzat

A Cajun in France: Journeys to Assimilation provides unique insights into the distinct culture of the Cajuns who came to Louisiana, after being driven from Nova Scotia in the 1700’s. The author, himself a descendant of this heritage, creates a vivid snapshot of the lifestyles of those who shared this heritage. His memories capture the toils of the sharecropper to eke out a meager living, the close connections of families, the prevailing illiteracy of the people, the rich oral histories shared with the youth, the signature cuisine, and the simple joys of the people and their relished traditions.

Authentic episodes related by the author help the reader to understand the struggles of a young man to create a path for himself that propelled him to pursue education as the “great equalizer” despite his lack of funding and lack of community values for education. This achievement of fluency in both English and standard French enabled his assimilation into the larger society while cherishing his Cajun culture.

Of equal interest is his ability to assimilate into elements of French society through his multiple journeys throughout France. His Cajun culture and rich stories of Cajuns, along with his fluency in standard French, opened invitations for him to experience French culture with French families, while sharing his own culture. His own Cajun culture engendered swift connection with the culture of the French in various areas of the country.  The book relates the stories, connections and impressions gleaned from his journeys in France.

Cajun cuisine has become popular within the past decade, and most Cajuns develop the ability to create tasty Cajun dishes. This book does not disappoint! It concludes with several traditional Cajun recipes that even a novice cook can master. Accept that challenge!

                Recommendation by Cherrie  Gonzales Pansano

I finished reading Sidney Bellard’s book last night. It was very good and I really enjoyed it. He was such a wonderful teacher with a beautiful smile and a sweet accent that you just couldn’t help but swoon over him. All of us young girls just adored him back in the day. He was such a kind man that made you feel good about yourself even when you didn’t deserve it. He was by far my favorite teacher. But to know this man you really have to read his book. I had no idea what his life was about and how he lived until I read it. So many challenges and hard times that he had to overcome in order to bring him into our lives as our handsome history teacher. I realize now that you never really know what someone else has had to deal with in their lives to become who they are today but his was not at all what I thought before reading his book. I always liked Mr. Bellard but after reading his book, I truly fell in love with Pierre. I highly recommend this book as it is a good read and it will warm your heart.

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