Reading my Words on the Radio

I just received a letter of acceptance for one of my stories. It will air on Valley Writers Read, a program from Valley Public Radio. Every year KVPR opens its doors to any writer who lives in the vast California valley, the cradle of bounty that grows between the ocean and the mountain range.
Valley Writers Read, as its name hints, allows writers to read their own work. Two years ago, I submitted a fiction piece which was accepted. I was happy as any writer appreciates the reward of an acceptance letter but I panicked when I found out that I would have to read my own words. Not that I can’t read, of course, but I kept thinking that my unmistakable French accent could get in the way of the story.
The radio host who took care of the recording was encouraging, professional and made me feel comfortable. We agreed to split the story in sections. I would be the voice for the parts of the story set in Paris and someone else would read the narrative.
I liked the idea. We added some French music and I received many positive comments from friends but also strangers I met later. Yet, a question came up more than once: “Why didn’t you read the whole story? We liked it so much more when it was you who told the story. Your accent is so unique that it brought texture to the story. Besides, because of it we had to listen carefully and we didn’t do anything else as you read.”
Interesting comment when I often wonder and worry about being a distraction!
My new story for the upcoming season isn’t fictional. It is based on a memoir I started a while ago when I was concerned that my children would never know about their heritage, would never believe I was once someone who didn’t write in English.
The recent census and the passing of the Arizona immigration law brought back memories of my first years in the US. Both events could only trigger the question: “What does it mean to be an American in 2010 and what makes us Americans?”
My accent is still, years after I arrive in the US, playing tricks on me but it is also what makes me who I am: a French native living and writing in the USA.
So perhaps, I’m thinking, this year I should read my words. They carry my immigrant experience and because of that can only be read with an immigrant accent.

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