Franco-American Book Reading by Susan Poulin in China Village Library
Readings from her humor filled guide for life, “Finding Your Inner Moose”, Poulin drew a warm response from those who filled the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in the charming town of China Village, east of Augusta.
Poulin entertained the audience by reading stories about how to be a balanced person who enjoys life, from the perspective of her character, Ida LeClair. Her common sense advice and comically expressed words of wisdom are portrayed with an authentic Maine accent, by her actor generated performance of “alter ego” LeClair.
Poulin created her female wit and font of Maine wisdom “Ida” from a composite of strong women who’ve had a positive impact on her own life.
“Ida is sort of like a life coach, but without a fancy office,” explains Poulin.
As Ida, she adds, “The most important thing in life is to have a positive attitude.”
Amusing life guide advice from Ida produced an enjoyable outing on an otherwise frigidly cold Sunday afternoon, in the warmness of the quaint China Village historic pre-Civil War era building and library.
Poulin is proud of her Franco-American heritage. She was born in Jackman and grew up in Westbook, Maine, both mill town communities, in a Franco-American family. “My stories are rooted in the New England mill towns I know,” she says. “I love mill towns, enjoy the look of them, the way the buildings are situated along the water,”
As a matter of fact, her character Ida also lives in a mill town fictionally named Mahoosuc Falls, in Maine’s Franklin County, located intentionally not too far from the Bangor Shopping Mall.
Likewise, Ida is a Franco-American. Her character’s maiden name is Gilbert. She weaves her pepere “Grampy Gilbert” into several stories.
Although “Grampy Gilbert” speaks French, he’s most comfortable speaking a combination of French and English, sometimes called “Franglais”. In her animated conversations, “Grampy Gilbert” calls Ida “mon petit chou”, meaning “my little cabbage”, a Franco-American term of endearment, often associated with loved ones.
“I appreciate Maine’s Yankee culture, yet it’s not the culture I was raised in,” she told the library audience. “I weave the traditions of my Franco-American culture into about thirty to forty percent of my stories. This is consistent with the percent of Franco-Americans who are in Maine’s culture,” she explained.
Ida draws her life guide advice from funny observations she learned from watching moose. Indeed, moose are majestic animals, but they know enough, through experience, not to lock their horns over stress brought about by taking life too seriously.
“Ida is a continually unfolding character. She takes me places where I didn’t know we would go, when I begin to write each of her stories.”
Poulin began performing in 1992, after graduating the University of Southern Maine theater program. She and her husband Gordon Carslile, a visual artist and performer, live in Eliot, ME.
Her character Ida LeClair is an open hearted person who hangs out with a great group of entertaining friends. She believes in straight talk and the infectious effect of happiness. “We expect good things to happen, so they do,” says Ida.
Nearly as enjoyable as Poulin’s book reading was the tour of the small China Village Albert Church Brown Memorial Library. It’s among Maine’s hidden historic gems. The library is a well maintained relic pre-dating the American Civil War, dedicated to the memory of the town’s native son who served in the Union Army, Albert Church Brown (1852-1940), by his sister.
Paul Parent, who is president of the China Library Association and a Franco-Americans, says the library is a non-profit 501©3 association dedicated to providing community service.
Certainly, Ida LeClair was right at home in the China Village library because its address at 37 Main Street is across the road from another building with the French address “quarante-deux” (42) clearly printed above the doorway.