Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Sunday in God-Years by Michelle Boisseau

As someone who finds herself immersed in the history of her family, imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered A Sunday in God-Years by Michelle Boisseau.  Michelle is the granddaughter of Florence Ryan and FitzPatrick Boisseau.

I was not aware of the history of the Boisseau family at all -- if I had a family with as interesting a history as this family, I would feel compelled to write a book about them, too.  But Michelle is a poet -- and I could never duplicate her way with words.

Her book lists nine generations of Boisseaus. (You can view the history by clicking on the image and then magnifying it). The first generation of immigrants came from France in 1685.  They were Huguenots (French Protestants). Since our family is largely Catholic, I was surprised to read that the initial immigrant was Rev. James Boisseau and his wife Sarah Holmes.  I wonder if the transition to "Catholic" occurred when Florence Ryan came into the picture.

One section of her book is titled "Fitz Patrick Boisseau".  This name is woven through multiple generations of the Boisseau family.  To use Michelle's words:
Odd name.  Yoked way back.  It was the name of my good brother, Pat, the name of my talented fuckup of a father, John Fitz Patrick Boisseau, died of wounds received fighting for the Confederacy.
. . . Each man supported the name "Fitz Patrick Boisseau" like a family cowlick or cancer . . .
My dead brother, Pat, spent twenty years on the warm side of brilliant, funny, kind, admirable, then thirty-three years wandering the woods of the madlands where devils hang like possums from branches, where Jesus is a volcano, and like a hank of hair your soul is yanked from your body by a passing pickup while you talk on a pay phone to your sister.
I am nothing but curious now.  Is this quote a literal account of how Pat died?  If so, how tragic.  I've always found it a challenge to discuss mental illness in any of its forms.  Her language moves me.  I feel the pain.

Today I visited Spring Grove Cemetery in search of graves.  Three generations of Fitz Patrick Boisseaus are buried there, as well as my Great-Aunt Florence and Pat's second wife, Lois.  They are not all in the same plot and I stopped checking after finding this grave.

I know there are some good things that came from all of this.  On one of the interviews Michelle gave, she discussed  a book her father gave her that had been in the family for some time. It was a book written by Longfellow that had been given to Michelle's grandfather in the 1890s. Her father, Pat, presented it to her when she received her PhD.

I hope that Michelle and her siblings find this blog and gain understanding by reading about their "Ryan" side of the family.  The more I learn about my ancestors, the more blessed I feel on every level.

PRX Radio Interview   This is a link to a radio interview Michelle did for her university.  Very interesting.

Read Michelle Boisseau's response in the comment section below.

1 comment:

  1. Sure you can use my work--I looked at what you put on your blog from my book and it seems fair. I have a sister and a brother who live in Cincinnati still, well, Milford (Nancy Achberger) and Pleasant Plain (Bob). I forwarded your message to my other siblings, too: Jonathan (who lives in Mill Valley, CA), Madeline Vincent (Austin, TX); Barbara Brown (Smithfield, R.I.), Charles (Austin, TX), and Denise Hoelting (Austin, TX).

    I'm happy to see all your work on the Ryans and so forth--I had a bit of information from Claire Batchelor (widow of Billy Batchelor, my dad's first cousin, with whom he was close), but it seemed contradictory and confusing. You mentioned in your blog about Aunt Rose and Grandma Boisseau's sister who moved to Chicago. The story I heard was that this sister ran off with a married man (or perhaps a divorced man?--evidently they knew his name J. J. Gill) and the rest of the family was so scandalized that never spoke about her again and acted as though she were dead. I think this was a story my dad told. I'll have to ask my mom if she remembers this story. I remember Aunt Rose really well; she was a joyful person and always kind--and witty. I know my dad felt close to her and visited her now and again.

    (Comment from Michelle Boisseau)


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