Book Reviews

Ma Vie en Rose: A Memoir From the Midwest to the Marais by Buck Jones

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Historical / 20th Century / Nonfiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 08-March-2021

Book Blurb

Buck Jones’ new memoir, Ma Vie en Rosé, recounts how a 27-year-old virgin raised in strict religiosity finds his true self — and ultimately his husband and a new life in Paris. At an early age there was a sense that he was very different from the rest of his family and friends in his tract home neighborhood of Iowa. From the sanctuary of hand-me-down encyclopedias and old Life magazines he dreamt of a different life — of European nobility and big city cosmopolitan glamour.

Jones’ personal odyssey of discovery and maturation over half a century is oftentimes humorous and sometimes poignant as he struggles to build the life of which he dreamed, despite dead-end jobs, recessions, and the final obstacle: the dreaded French bureaucracy. Through it all we are along for the wild ride of lavish Manhattan penthouse parties, presidential politics, and a succession of ill-fated romantic liaisons ending in a cobblestoned street in the heart of Paris’ Marais.

Ma Vie en Rosé is a thought-provoking story of self-discovery, whether you read it with a glass of Tang or Provençal Rosé, it is a voyage from Nixon to Trump, from gospel a capella choirs to European DJ’s, from geeky unrequited crushes to a mutual love of a lifetime.

 

Book Review

Jeffrey Douglas Jones, born in Davenport, Iowa, comes from an extremely religious Midwest family. His parents were members of a protestant Christian sect (Catholics have their countless saints, Protestants their countless denominations, it seems) called the Plymouth Brethren, who taught strict adherence to the Bible, interpreted very literally. What he recounts of his first and formative years, however, with many details—in the form of what I’d call family lore (that’s how our baby and preadolescent years survive in our memories) and later personally remembered anecdotes—shows a loving and nurturing family and a happy, even happy-go-lucky boy who loved his life and who loved feeling safe and secure in the bosom of the chapel community. As is often the case in someone that young, he never questioned the beliefs instilled in him nor the place he was meant to occupy in God’s creation.

 

The first big change in his life occurred when he was aged 14-15. His father was hired as a manufacturing manager for a company that produced lightly armored tanks for the US Army, and the whole family moved to Aiken, South Carolina. That’s when Jeffrey encounters and falls in love with the South: Southern lifestyle, Southern hospitality, Southern traditions (the wholesome ones, mind you). He not only accepted them but adopted them with the zeal of a new believer, a latter-day convert. His later reflections in the book show how utterly sheltered his life was—he recalls in hindsight that he never ever mingled with colored people and was brought up in an exclusively white environment. It’s during that period that Jeffrey also discovered his love for the written word, and better: for writing.

 

The next shock came when he was invited to participate in a student exchange program and spent the summer of 1983 abroad. In Greece, to be more precise, where he expanded his horizon (note that I firmly believe each and every youth should spend some time in a foreign country to learn how to relativize and put into perspective everything they have thought and believed until then; and I also believe the necessary funds should be provided by our countries for those who cannot afford it). On coming home, he enrolled in the University of South Carolina…

 

As one can see, the different stages of Jeffrey’s life are recounted in great and vivid detail. To say more about what follows would be an outright spoiler (and if what I did disclose hasn’t whetted your appetite, please have a look at the blurb), so suffice it to say that his path, singular and “incopiable”, finally leads him to Paris, France, where together with his husband Martin he runs a groovy café in on of the French capital’s it-places, the Marais district (Paris’s gay neighborhood).

 

Jeffrey, nicknamed Buck by his friends, mentions the creative writing teacher he had in high school, and I have to say, I hope he has thanked her ever since, because she has done a very good job with him. I found his voice compelling; his writing moved me forward with the flow of the natural writer. Even the earliest anecdotes not only have the ring of truth, but also the flavor of fictionalized truth insofar as nothing is merely told—things are shown, and I was immersed in a social and cultural background that couldn’t be more different from mine, and I never ever felt out of place. The author’s ability to bring such a strange culture home to me and make me understand it is quite something.

 

Of course, there were passages toward the end where I was slightly put off by Jeffrey’s need to explain the beliefs and values he has adopted ever since coming out (at the quite late age of 27) because he might have repeated them one time too often. A second niggle, if I have to find one, is that where I seem to suffer from “hyphenitis” when writing in English (mostly because I don’t want to look up every other word—thank God I know the perfect proofreader), there simply aren’t enough hyphens in this book (Buck, if you read this, I could lend you some of mine, lol). By which I mean it should get a good and thorough proofread, and if would be perfect. But what really outweighs these niggles is the unputdownability (I’m allowed to invent words) of Buck’s memoir. It was a journey back in time, a journey to a country I have the impression I know a bit better now, a journey I’m happy I have made. If you think memoirs of people who are not media stars are dull, think again. And pick up a copy of this book to see what I mean.

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 486 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 20-December-2017
Price $9.99 ebook
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Ma-Vie-Rose-Memoir-Midwest-ebook/dp/B077ZBJMJL