Hello and Happy French Friday!
If I say “French woman” what comes to mind? Most likely the stereotypical image of a tall, thin, well-dressed woman with perfectly red lips, maybe sipping a glass of wine. She’s elegant, seductive, gorgeous. And she’s in Paris, right? Well you’re probably in good company as this is an image that, over the years, has been perpetuated in movies, books and the media in general. The “French woman”, indeed, the “Parisienne” puts the rest of us to shame as she pops out, perfectly coiffed and made up with casual but stylish clothes to pick up a baguette or drop off the dry cleaning. No dirty hair, unmade up face or track pants for this woman. But is this REALLY how it is?
Lindsey Tramuta’s new book, The New Parisienne: The Women and Ideas Shaping Paris is here to prove that Parisian women are so much more than their media image would suggest and that, indeed, right now, there’s whole new wave of women doing exceptional things in Paris, re-defining the concept of the “Parisienne” in a most awesome way.
I wanted this book to give a voice to women who may not be used to telling their stories publicly, to women whose stories need to reach far beyond French borders, once and for all, to women who may be unknown and quietly disrupting industry and norms and shaping society for the future, and to women who I felt confident would inspire readers as much as they inspire me.
It was no surprise to me that Lindsey’s second book would focus on this new generation of women – her first book, The New Paris, is all about this rebirth and rise of the creative class in her beloved adopted city and, as she says, one of the best things to happen to her after its publication was how it connected her with many incredibly inspiring women doing amazing things and busting that “French woman” myth in the best possible way. The New Parisienne is about “a woman whose aura is seemingly impossible to dispel but must endlessly be dissected […] offering a new image and a set of stories to go with it.”
From the publisher:
The New Parisienne focuses on one of the city’s most prominent features, its women. Lifting the veil on the mythologized Parisian woman—white, lithe, ever fashionable—Lindsey Tramuta demystifies this oversimplified archetype and recasts the women of Paris as they truly are, in all their complexity. Featuring 50 activists, creators, educators, visionaries, and disruptors—like Leïla Slimani, Lauren Bastide, and Mayor Anne Hidalgo—the book reveals Paris as a blossoming cultural center of feminine power. Both the featured women and Tramuta herself offer up favorite destinations and women-owned businesses, including beloved shops, artistic venues, bistros, and more. The New Parisienne showcases “Parisianness” in all its multiplicity, highlighting those who are bucking tradition, making names for themselves, and transforming the city.
This book, originally slated to publish in April, came out last month and it’s been a joy working my way through the chapters. A treat in a summer void of travel, this offered a look at a different side of Paris and one I’d love to explore more someday. Though it’s not a travel guide, it offers plenty of places and businesses you’ll be adding to your “Paris list” (see below re: “Her Paris”).
A coffee table book of sorts, rather than a novel-type read, it’s the perfect book to dip into, a little bit each day (though it’s also easy to keep reading about “just one more person”! There’s a “cultural primer” at the start which is helpful as it explores themes and ideas that are referenced through the book to give some cultural perspective for those not familiar with life in France. The women profiled are categorised as Activists, Creators, Disruptors, Storytellers, “Taste”makers and Visionaries (although certainly may of them fit into more than one category). There are thoughtful pieces about motherhood and representation (with a very 2020 message: “If you’re doing it right, you’re following, reading, and listening to a variety of people that don’t look and live like you.“); the whole book will open your eyes to a new side of Paris and Parisian women getting things done.
Each woman is profiled in just a few pages – I was surprised that the book would feature so many women (50) – how to do them all justice without the book being a huge tome? – but it’s clear Lindsey has a real understanding of what these women are all about. Her writing is clear, concise and manages to reduce what must have been hours of interviews/ research into those few pages, capturing the essence of the important work these women are undertaking.
I loved the inclusion of the “Her Paris” section after each profile with snippets of their favourite women-owned businesses in Paris – it’s a truly diverse cross section of Paris that is represented, far from the tourist zones (and listed according to categories in the back of the book for easy reference). There is also a “Their Paris” chapter featuring five women and their “ideal day in Paris” itineraries as well as some of Lindsey’s own picks (if you follow her on social media, you’ll know she knows all the good places to go!), which is fascinating for those who know the city a little bit and useful for those wishing to experience more of the Paris of Parisians…
Fiercely smart. Diverse. Driven. Passionate. Strong. Successful. This is my understanding of who the “new Parisienne” really is. It’s an exciting time for women in Paris and I’m grateful to Lindsey for bringing attention to them. With stunning images of the women and the city by Joann Pai with bold illustrations by Agathe Singer, this is a beautiful-to-look-at book that is an important read.
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