Paris, there Lindsey Tramuta know, it is not Paris that most of the world knows. Tramuta is determined to cut through outdated clichés and has just released the French translation of her second book, which highlights women representing a modern and more diverse Paris.
“The New Parisienne: The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris,” was originally published in 2020. The book profiles 50 women across areas such as business, activism, politics and culture, offering a far more complex definition of what it means to be a woman in Paris than the fashionable, wild and primarily white images typically seen in the media.
“Translation is a skill,” Tramuta said. “I preferred to make sure that the ideas and messages were adapted correctly by someone whose work I respect. Karine works with mostly female writers, and the themes in the book speak to her personally. So I knew we were going to create a good team. ”
The new book serves as a kind of sequel to her book from 2017, “The new Paris,” who also sought to explore the modern sensibilities of a city more often celebrated for its past.
“The driving force for the first was a sense of frustration at what kind of representations we see over and over again about Paris,” she said. “Once you have lived here, or you have spent a lot of time here, it is very quickly the same old kind of story. Paris does not change. Paris is change-phobic. People do not write about much of the actual changes. ”
A year later, Tramuta knew she had more to say and felt particularly bothered by the images of Parisian women being repeated elsewhere.
“It’s not just French-born or native Parisian women,” Tramuta said. “We try to move towards greater inclusivity. That’s fine and good, except that even those people who insist on greater inclusivity will still write a very reductionist perspective on women in Paris. But when I looked around at the women who surround me and my network, and the women I have worked with and encountered since I have been in Paris, none of them are really reflected with any great balance or justice in popular culture. ”
Women in the new Paris
Among these new faces in Paris, the book contains women as Kat Borlongan, a Filipino immigrant who is now the director of La French Tech Mission, an agency that connects entrepreneurs and the French government. There is Mihaela Iordache, originally from Romania, who is now the chief coffee maker at Belleville Brûlerie. And Sarah Ourahmoune, who won an Olympic silver medal in boxing.
Tramuta said she did not try to mark any fields when choosing her topics for the book. Some are famous or have some degree of notoriety, while others are less well known in the public space.
“It’s really just based on emotion and the fact that there are definitely a number of women in Paris with all backgrounds, demographic, professional and religious,” she said. “It was an attempt to try to approximate it through pure observation. I went with someone who did things differently in their career. Some I had followed for a long time. Some I did not know personally until I sat with her for several hours. ”
Although it is difficult to generalize the stories of these women, Tramuta said she was struck by the idea that many of them had found some kind of liberation in Paris, whether they were newcomers to the city or natives.
“Paris represented opportunity, an access to culture that they did not have,” Tramuta said. “That is why they felt liberated. For many others, it is a creative source of inspiration. And that way, it’s liberating because they can do their creative work, and they can think, and they can build in a city like Paris, because it’s infinitely inspiring. ”
It includes people like Clémence Zamora Cruz, a teacher and trans rights activist who left Mexico more than 20 years ago for Paris. Cruz’s identity had caused a rift with her family, harassment by Mexican police and at one point found her sleeping on the streets of Mexico. Since arriving, life in Paris has not been perfect, but she is seeing real progress.
“She was able to recreate her life here, not in an easy way, but ended up feeling quite liberated and that she can live her true self without fear that her life is in danger,” Tramuta said.
This is another major theme: Paris is not necessarily a utopia. In fact, several of the women shown are activists pushing for changes in policies and attitudes toward minorities and immigrants. It includes writer and activist Rokhaya Diallo, who has at times become a lightning bolt in France’s cultural struggles over race and identity.
Tramuta said in his conversations with Diallo that the activist still felt an optimism around Paris despite this criticism.
“Even for the activists who constantly point out injustices and the shortcomings of France, they still feel that part of who they are, as liberated, independent women, is partly due to the fact that they live in a city like Paris, where they can do this, and they can be vocal, and they can get on their soapbox and talk about things that are still wrong, ”Tramuta said. “Rokhaya told me that when it comes to France and when it comes to Paris that she really loves this city and this country and she wants them to be better and live up to their potential.”
An American journalist in Paris
Tramuta, a native of Philadelphia, first arrived in Paris more than 15 years ago while studying at Boston University. She was drawn by the language and was determined to master the notoriously difficult nuances.
Finding work to keep her in the country proved to be a challenge at the time, though she eventually broke through, including landing a job with digital startup Twenga. Over time, she moved more into more writing and podcasting.
Being an American journalist in France can be a full-fledged exercise these days. Over the past year, there has been a growing chorus of criticism reaching all the way to President Emmanuel Macron on the impact of American education and ideology on debates in France about race and culture.
Tramuta’s books would hardly seem too political or controversial to many Anglophones. But in France, topics like diversity can be a minefield. The nation does not allow the collection of official data on race and religion because France’s universalist philosophy believes that such notions are divisive.
With the French version now in bookstores, Tramuta knows that there could be greater control from French sources. But for the most part, she has been grateful for the response from the women and other readers who are excited to see people like them being shown.
“The feedback I have received from French readers and individuals who are not necessarily attached to the media has been extremely warm and encouraging,” Tramuta said. “French-born or French immigrants are constantly told that their stories somehow do not matter enough. So when someone else comes along and says they mean something, I think it makes them feel like someone is finally listening. ”