Posts tagged “the french

Olympic Retrospective: Surya Bonaly of France

Posted on February 12, 2014



Last fall, I did a bit of academic research on my Facebook page. Because I’ll be teaching a class called “The French” beginning next week, I asked my Facebook friends “If you could learn about any French person, who would it be?” Some of the answers were downright hilarious (Pepe Le Peu, cartoon skunk), but others painted a lively portrait of France’s history with people from all walks of life. One of the trickier categories to pin down in this discussion: French athletic figures. Some argued for basketball player (and Eva Longoria spouse) Tony Parker, but for me, he feels like he’s become very American, very Hollywood. Soccer player Zinedine Zidane surged forward in my mind as the best, most tragic (for a time), and most modern example for the category.

But how could I forget figure skater Surya Bonaly, with her backflips and bad-ass attitude? This week, Jezebel ran a piece called “Surya Bonaly is the biggest badass in Winter Olympics History,” a headline so true that I have no choice but to add a part about her to my class at the eleventh hour. Bonaly is a three time World silver medalist, a five-time European champion and a nine-time French national champion. Although she gained American citizenship in 2004, she is almost considered to be one of the greatest figure skaters to have never won a medal in the Olympics and because she was the most exciting athlete in France in the 1990s, I feel she can’t be ignored.

Is there any other French athlete I should consider? If so, who is it and why should I include them? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.


The French

Posted on January 17, 2014

Pictured above: A framed franc note from 1944. I got it in the mail yesterday from my mother, who sent it to me as a belated birthday present. Now it’s among the really French-y stuff that surrounds me in my office as I write or work on the very first class I’ll teach in a couple of weeks.

Yes: teaching. I’ll be teaching a class called “The French” for LSU Continuing Education. The class begins February 17 and it will explore French history through the lives of the people who shaped it and were shaped by it. As a profile writer, this is an ideal way for me to approach it because each class will have a theme (i.e. Saints and Saviors) and consist of a series of related profiles about prominent French people from all walks of life.

Getting this class down on paper has been one thing. The ideas have been flowing. Things have been fitting together like perfect little puzzle pieces. It’s all making sense and (most importantly) feeling like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Delivering the class to a crowd may be something else. Last week, I wrote about my need to work on my public speaking skills. I did that, knowing that I would be speaking this morning to a room full of potential students, and, after that, presumably a class full of people I’d convince to listen to me speak for six more weeks. I’ve been getting a little whipped up about this and when I got my first class list earlier this week, I have to say I was a little nervous to see those first names there.

I got some good redirection from people who suggested I view this not as public speaking, but as talking about something I like and being myself when I do it.

So that’s what I did this morning. I behaved like myself, which is a very dangerous thing, indeed. Why? Because after explaining what the class was be about, I told a packed house that there would be no better way to spend Monday mornings than with a weird magazine writer lady who talks about French people behind their backs. A friend of mine quipped: “With lines like that, you could go into marketing.”

By next week, I should have an updated class list that indicates just how effective this more Paige-like approach was. In the meantime, the morning was good fun and for once I felt at ease speaking in front of a large group. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet. We shall see. All I know is that I met some wonderful people this morning and can’t wait to captivate them with stories about a country and people who have so thoroughly captivated me!