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New book profiles “Franco-Americans of Lewiston-Auburn”

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James Myall and Mary Rice-Defosse will discuss their new book, “The Franco-Americans of Lewiston-Auburn,” on Wednesday, February 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Freeport Community Library. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be accompanied by an exhibit of dozens of historic images featured in the book.

The book is the only comprehensive, approachable account of an immigrant group that had a major impact on the state’s history while, in cities like Lewiston and Auburn, forming a distinct ethnic cultural community with its own story. Although the book focuses on the Twin Cities of Lewiston and Auburn, the trends and issues described are relevant to Franco-Americans across the state and will be of interest to anyone of French-Canadian descent or with an interest in Maine history.

Myall, the Director of Freeport Historical Society, formerly served as Coordinator of the Franco-American Collection at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn campus. Rice-Defosse is a Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Bates College. The two embarked on the project to write a comprehensive history of Lewiston-Auburn’s Franco-Americans because they were surprised to realize that no one had done so before. “Despite an increase in awareness in recent years, a lot of Franco-American history goes unrecorded in Maine” says Myall. “We wanted to make that story more widely known.”

The book explores the history of French-Canadian immigrants to the cities of Lewiston and Auburn, from the first arrivals in the mid-19th century through the Maine Gubernatorial election of 2014. Unique personal and family stories are interwoven with the histories of local Franco-American institutions, from social clubs to the Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul to St. Mary’s Hospital. The authors also explore a number of social and cultural themes, from the arts and literature to language, discrimination and assimilation.

Freeport Community Library is located at 10 Library Drive, off Main Street, in Freeport. The snow date for the event is Wednesday, February 25. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase at $19.99, plus sales tax. For more information about the program, contact Freeport Historical Society at 865-3170 or see www.freeporthistoricalsociety.org.

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