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Old World (The French List)

Old World (The French List)

Current price: $25.00
Publication Date: December 6th, 2024
Seagull Books


Traversing heritage across three continents, this poignant coming-of-age novel chronicles the enduring presence of systemic racism and the resistance to it.

Born in Cameroon and raised in the suburbs of Paris, Nathan feels unmoored, as if he does not belong in France. His mother tells him about his great-grandfather who left Cameroon for New Orleans to seek his fortune shortly after World War II. Nathan travels there to search for the vestiges of his ancestor’s passage in America. To him, New Orleans is the promised land for the Black man.

However, renting a room in a shotgun house in the Tremé district, he discovers a different reality. This storied neighborhood testifies to the strength of a people who have survived slavery, segregation, and the struggle for civil rights with a strong sense of community. But the relentless inequities, capped by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, have taken a toll. As Nathan comes to understand this fraught history, he also plumbs his own past, including his sense of abandonment by his father in Cameroon. In this coming-of-age novel, Nathan is coming to be.

The evocative, poetic language of Fabienne Kanor’s novel confers a brutal beauty in incidents of violence and moments of joy, holding the reader in a constant state of tension. Peopled by flawed human beings trying to find their way and grow a life under the constant threat of violence, Old World chronicles the deep trauma and long-term effects of systemic racism in the United States and people’s efforts to rise above it.

About the Author

Fabienne Kanor is a writer, filmmaker, and associate professor of French and Francophone studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of several films and ten books, including Humus and La grande chambre. 

Lynn E. Palermo is professor emerita of French studies at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. Her translation of Fabienne Kanor’s Humus was shortlisted for the 2021 National Translation Award.