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Hardback: $62.00
ISBN-13: 9780824872663
Published: May 2018
Trade Paperback: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9780824872670
Published: May 2018

White Métisse

  • In this evocative memoir, Kim Lefèvre recounts her childhood and adolescence growing up in colonial Viet Nam. As a little girl living with her Vietnamese mother, she doesn’t understand the reactions of others toward her, their open mistrust, contempt, and rejection. Though she feels no different from those around her, she comes to understand that to Vietnamese she is living proof of her mother’s moral downfall, a constant and unwelcome reminder of a child conceived with a French soldier out of wedlock. As anticolonial sentiment grows in an atmosphere of rising nationalism, Lefèvre’s situation becomes increasingly precarious.

    Set within a tumultuous period of Franco-Vietnamese history—resistance and revolt, World War II and the Japanese invasion, the first war for independence against the French—White Métisse offers a unique view of watershed events and provides insights into the impact of upheaval and open conflict on families and individuals. Lefèvre’s story captures the instability and daily humiliations of her life and those of other marginalized members of society. Sent by her mother to live with distant family members who view her variously as ungrateful, a bad seed, or “neither gold nor silver,” she is later abandoned in an orphanage with other métisse girls. Lefèvre’s discovery of her own sexuality is overshadowed by her mother’s concerned advice to not repeat the same mistakes she had made, reminding her daughter of the Vietnamese social mores that condemn her very existence. Eventually the challenge and solace of education lead to a scholarship to study in Paris and Lefèvre departs Viet Nam for a new life in France in 1960.

    Part personal memoir, part coming of age story, Lefèvre’s moving account shows the courage and strength of an individual who is able to embrace her hybrid identity and gain self-esteem on her own terms despite living between worlds. White Métisse has been in print in France since its appearance in 1989 and continues to resonate strongly in the universal contexts of immigration, shifting cultural identities, rejection, and assimilation. Now Jack A. Yeager’s elegant translation makes Kim Lefèvre’s compelling memoir available to English-speaking readers.

    • Kim Lefèvre is a memoirist, novelist, and translator. She was born in Viet Nam in the 1930s and has lived in France since 1960.
    • Jack A. Yeager is professor of French studies and women’s and gender studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
    • "Kim Lefèvre’s classic coming of age tale has found its ideal translator in Jack Yeager, the distinguished critic of Vietnamese Francophone literature whose precise and elegant transpositions illuminate the contradictions of geographical and racial displacements, ostracism, and belonging captured by the narrative. Lefèvre is a remarkable cultural witness to the beauty and trauma of a past that lives on in today’s legacy of migration and loss. Yeager’s translation will become an invaluable teaching tool for the world literature classroom as well as for anyone interested in the cultural history of Southeast Asia."
      —Françoise Lionnet, Harvard University
    • "This autobiographical novel is a unique and culturally uncommon bildungsroman by a mixed-race woman who is a boundary-pusher and a rebel. It is an important text for what it tells us about the stigma of consorting with the enemy—the impure, the French—in traditional Vietnamese society and for its sketch of post-colonialism in all its messiness and fervor. This very fine translation should be read by students of France’s colonial and postcolonial history and could easily be assigned to courses in women’s and gender studies given its clear depiction of what it means to be a girl and to become a woman in Southeast Asia."
      —Judith Miller, New York University
    • "Métisse blanche, one of the most important pieces of Francophone literature about colonial Indochina, offers a unique view of the crucial years that bridged the late colonial and early independence eras in Vietnam. This elegant translation of Kim Lefèvre’s 1989 book tells the story of a mixed-race young woman who is fiercely proud of her Vietnamese heritage, yet struggles to be recognized as Vietnamese by her compatriots. Jack Yeager’s translation is a joy to read and makes this important piece of history and literature accessible to a wider international audience."
      —Christina Firpo, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo