One of the lasting legacies of colonialism is the assumption that families should conform to a kinship arrangement built on normative, nuclear, individuality-based models. An alternate understanding of familial aspiration is one cultivated across national borders and cultures and beyond the constraints of diasporas. This alternate understanding, which imagines a category of “trans-” families, relies on decolonial and queer intellectual thought to mobilize or transform power across borders.
In Transforming Family Jocelyn Frelier examines a selection of novels penned by francophone authors in France, Morocco, and Algeria, including Azouz Begag, Nina Bouraoui, Fouad Laroui, Leïla Sebbar, Leïla Slimani, and Abdellah Taïa. Each novel contributes a unique argument about this alternate understanding of family, questioning how family relates to race, gender, class, embodiment, and intersectionality. Arguing that trans- families are always already queer, Frelier opens up new spaces of agency for both family units and individuals who seek representation and fulfilling futures.
The novels analyzed in Transforming Family, as well as the families they depict, resist classification and delink the legacies of colonialism from contemporary modes of being. As a result, these novels create trans- identities for their protagonists and contribute to a scholarly understanding of the becoming trans- of cultural production. As international political debates related to migration, the family unit, and the “global migrant crisis” surge, Frelier destabilizes governmental criteria for the “regrouping” of families by turning to a set of definitions found in the cultural production of members of the francophone, North African diaspora.
Acknowledgments: On Gratitude
A Technical Note: On Quotes and Translations
Prelude: On the Origins of this Project, or Literary Criticism as Feminist Autoethnographic Work
Introduction: Trans- Forming Family: Queer Kinship and Migration in Contemporary Francophone Literature
Interlude 1: On Maternity, Motherhood, and Mothering
1. Mothering beyond Borders: Transnational Queer Mother and Child in Nina Bouraoui’s Garçon manqué (2000)
2. Queering Motherhood: Bad Mothers and Murderous Nannies in Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce (2016)
Interlude 2: On Paternity, Fatherhood, and Fathering
3. Estranged from the Father: Estrangement Bonds and the Terrorist Son in Leïla Sebbar’s Mon cher fils (2009)
4. Beginning Again: Transcultural Contact and Fatherhood in Azouz Begag’s Salam Ouessant (2012)
Interlude 3: On Horizontal Familial Bonds and Community
5. Adoption: Choosing Family and Coming of Age in Fouad Laroui’s Une année chez les Français (2010)
6. Brotherhood: Emancipatory Fraternal Bonds in Abdellah Taïa’s Celui qui est digne d’être aimé (2017)
Postlude: On Hindsight and Finales
Jocelyn Frelier is the Program Manager, Rising Voices at Vital Voices Global Partnership.
"In addition to the significant contributions this timely work makes to scholarship on the individual authors analyzed therein, this work will also serve as an invaluable resource to anyone interested in literary representations of family alongside feminist, queer, and intersectional theoretical questions pertaining to social class, race, and gender. It will also be applicable to other writers from other cultures who narrate their own experiences of migration."—Adrienne Angelo, Women in French Studies
“Frelier steeps us in transnational, transcultural, and transdiasporic family formations with rigor and vulnerability—qualities that together provide a deep immersion in texts and lives. The book takes up ‘family’ not as a vehicle to somewhere else, but as a subject worthy of our attention for its own sake. Reaching across disciplinary chasms, it holds something for every reader seeking to understand families as they are.”—Amy Brainer, author of Queer Kinship and Family Change in Taiwan
“An important contribution to French and francophone studies. . . . Given the evolution of family structure and its ever-growing transnational nature, this book is a welcome intervention in our field and beyond. Jocelyn Frelier sheds new light on important works and authors.”—Loïc Bourdeau, editor of Horrible Mothers: Representations across Francophone North America