From Casablanca to Houston

A Family Story

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Julie Fette Rice University

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This article melds family history with History, tracing the lives of my daughter’s grandparents, Marcelle Libraty and Pinhas Cohen. Products of the social mobility and integration offered by the Alliance israélite universelle, they became schoolteachers in Morocco and opted for France after independence. Currently in their eighties, Marcelle and Pinhas’s lives are connected to sweeping events in history: French colonialism, Vichy anti-Semitism, Moroccan independence, Jewish emigration. Inspired by Ivan Jablonka’s L’Histoire des grandparents que je n’ai pas eus, I experiment as both narrator of the past and participant in the family story, and demonstrate new ways of writing history. This auto-historiographical project shows how a family succeeds in preserving identities of origin and maintaining relationships despite socio-political upheaval and global mobility.

Contributor Notes

Julie Fette is an associate professor of French Studies at Rice University. Her main research interests are gender and xenophobia. She is the author of Exclusions: Practicing Prejudice in French Law and Medicine, 1920–1945. She has published articles about diverse subjects such as xenophobia, memory, theatre, and professional women in Contemporary French Civilization, French Politics, Culture & Society, PMLA, and the Journal of Women’s History. She teaches courses on French society and culture. She is currently writing a book on representations of gender in contemporary French children’s literature. Email:

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