This is the view I miss the most. The cliffs above my home changing color as the sun arches in the sky. Gold, then pink, and finally purple as the sun finally sets on the Cold Lands across the valley. My grandmother Césarine said it every day as she opened and closed her shutters. “Why should you move anywhere? This is the most beautiful place on earth.” But I left anyway, it’s hard to understand beauty when you’re a kid. With my high school English and exactly one hundred and thirty-two dollars in my pocket, I moved to the United States. After nine years of working odd jobs and going to school, I was granted a work permit, and finally became a citizen on May 11, 2000.
Over the years people have asked me a million times, “You have an accent, where are you from?” They expect to hear about Paris or the Riviera, so when I talk about cliffs and canyons, they’re always a little thrown off. And when I launch into the war and the Resistance, the wounds that centuries of oppression and revolution leave festering in the heart of a nation~because that’s the fun part of who we are, no? I can see I’m losing them. I can’t show them the gun I found in the mud of a summer creek, because it’s hidden behind a bunch of junk my mother collects on top of the hallway closet in France. Very cool gun, a British Sten sub-machine gun used by the French Resistance. Something is carved in the metal casing. Pour ma Suzon chérie, Robert Gaudillot, June 2, 1944. Robert was one of the ordinary men and and women who died fighting an extraordinary last stand in the Battle of the Vercors, and whose names no one remembers.
So I wrote this story instead. There, this is where I’m from. A figment of my blood more than my imagination, their story has haunted me all these years. That it should take place in 1944 in a remote Alpine village is important only to me, but the fight is what matters. The same fight always for freedom and atonement, wherever and whenever it takes place. All of us have that fight somewhere in our past, and I hope our future as well.