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So this past weekend I read a pretty amazing memoir called Project Girl. It’s something of a ‘rags to riches’ story written by Janet McDonald. In it she describes her struggles to remain loyal to the mostly black community she grew up in, while pursuing academic and job opportunities that pulled her farther away from her family and home in the Brooklyn projects. It’s truly amazing how openly she talks about her personal battles with depression and drug abuse, as well as the extent to which sexism, racism, and sexual assault changed her outlook on life.

The brighter moments of the book come when Janet McDonald travels to France, at first as part of a study abroad and later for a job as a lawyer. In an interview with Ira Glass for This American Life, she speaks about how much more comfortable she felt in France, partly because she no longer had to worry about being perceived as either ‘project’ or ‘nerdy’. She was simply an American in Paris. In the book she writes,

My choice to live abroad may be a way of opting out of the struggle to belong: I have chosen to be a stranger. Here, I am free to focus my efforts on living who I am, not fitting into someone else’s notion of who I should be. But I know where my heart is, and I can go home again, whenever I like.

It’s really an amazing book that at times reminds me of my own experiences abroad, also in France. There are so many incredible stories, and each one is more compelling than the last. It’s a short book, but a great read. I highly recommend it.

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