Book: Dreaming in French

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Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis

Alice Kaplan, the John M. Musser Professor of French

(University of Chicago Press)

“Dreaming in French” tells the stories of three American women who spent a year in Paris and how it changed their lives. 

All three women would go on to become icons, key figures in American cultural, intellectual, and political life, but when they embarked for France, they were young, little-known, uncertain about their future, and drawn to the culture, sophistication, and drama that only Paris could offer.

Jacqueline Bouvier was a 20-year-old debutante, a Catholic girl from a wealthy East Coast family. Susan Sontag was 24, a precocious Jewish intellectual from a North Hollywood family of modest means, and Paris was a refuge from motherhood, a failing marriage, and graduate work in philosophy at Oxford. Angela Davis, a French major at Brandeis from a prominent African-American family in Birmingham, Alabama, found herself the only black student in her year abroad program — in a summer when all the news from Birmingham was of unprecedented racial violence.



Kaplan takes readers into the lives, hopes, and ambitions of these young women, tracing their paths to Paris and tracking the discoveries, intellectual adventures, friendships, and loves that they found there. For all three women, France was far from a passing fancy; rather, Kaplan shows, the year abroad continued to influence them and a significant part of their intellectual and cultural makeup for the rest of their lives.