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Breathless: An American Girl in Paris
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Published:
Basic Books 2013
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Description

In the early 1960s, most middle-class American women in their twenties had their lives laid out for them: marriage, children, and life in the suburbs. Most, but not all. Breathless is the story of a girl who represents those who rebelled against conventional expectations. 

Paris was a magnet for those eager to resist domesticity, and like many young women of the decade, Nancy K. Miller was enamored of everything French—from perfume and Hermès scarves to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir and the New Wave films of Jeanne Moreau. After graduating from Barnard College in 1961, Miller set out for a year in Paris, with a plan to take classes at the Sorbonne and live out a great romantic life inspired by the movies. After a string of sexual misadventures, she gave up her short-lived freedom and married an American expatriate who promised her a lifetime of three-star meals and five-star hotels. But her husband wasn't who he said he was, and she eventually had to leave Paris and her dreams behind.

This stunning memoir chronicles a young woman’s coming-of-age tale, and offers a glimpse into the intimate lives of girls before feminism.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
11/05/2013
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781580054898
ASIN:
B00E257X54
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Nancy K. Miller. (2013). Breathless: An American Girl in Paris. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Nancy K. Miller. 2013. Breathless: An American Girl in Paris. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Nancy K. Miller, Breathless: An American Girl in Paris. Basic Books, 2013.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Nancy K. Miller. Breathless: An American Girl in Paris. Basic Books, 2013.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 18:55:04
Date Updated:
Dec 06, 2020 02:48:09
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        After graduating from Barnard College, Nancy K. Miller sailed to Paris to study French literature and complete a master's degree. Already in love with the city from movies and novels, she hoped to create a new, more sophisticated identity for her twenty-year-old, nice-New York-Jewish-girl self. Several years of adventures and misadventures later, including marriage to an American ex-pat, Miller returned to New York minus the husband but ready to reinvent herself as an academic and writer.

        Now a well-known feminist scholar, Miller has authored and edited more than a dozen books, publishing literary criticism, personal essays, and family memoirs. Her most recent memoir, What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past, won the Jewish Journal Prize for 2012 and told the story of her quest to recreate her family's lost history. She is a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she teaches classes in memoirs, graphic novels, and women's studies. Miller lectures widely, both nationally and internationally, and her work is anthologized in popular volumes on autobiography and collections of feminist essays. She also co-edits Columbia University Press's Gender and Culture series, which she co-founded in 1983 with the late Carolyn Heilbrun.

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title
Breathless
fullDescription

In the early 1960s, most middle-class American women in their twenties had their lives laid out for them: marriage, children, and life in the suburbs. Most, but not all. Breathless is the story of a girl who represents those who rebelled against conventional expectations. 

Paris was a magnet for those eager to resist domesticity, and like many young women of the decade, Nancy K. Miller was enamored of everything French—from perfume and Hermès scarves to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir and the New Wave films of Jeanne Moreau. After graduating from Barnard College in 1961, Miller set out for a year in Paris, with a plan to take classes at the Sorbonne and live out a great romantic life inspired by the movies. After a string of sexual misadventures, she gave up her short-lived freedom and married an American expatriate who promised her a lifetime of three-star meals and five-star hotels. But her husband wasn't who he said he was, and she eventually had to leave Paris and her dreams behind.

This stunning memoir chronicles a young woman’s coming-of-age tale, and offers a glimpse into the intimate lives of girls before feminism.

reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        August 12, 2013
        In a graceful, aching memoir of her ingénue years in Paris, comparative literature professor and author Miller (What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past) re-creates a time of fledgling sexual liberation and rueful homecoming. Breaking away from home with her intellectual, Jewish parents in Manhattan, where she had felt “conned” to live during her college years at Barnard, Miller blissfully took off for study at the Sorbonne in fall of 1961, resolved to be the Jean Seberg character in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and be adventurous and independent. In that pre-feminist era, she quickly learned that sleeping with men was effortless but achieving sexual satisfaction was not. In her naivety, as her time in Paris lengthened and she won a Fulbright teaching fellowship, she often confused sex with finding the right “dream-companion” á la Simone de Beauvoir, and was frequently disappointed, from falling for the leather-clad beatnik on the motorcycle, Leo; the earnest Tunisian student Bernard, who wanted to marry her; and the overbearing Irishman Jim Donovan, the head of a self-run language school, who hired her and married her. In her sweetly ironical, fondly forgiving look back at her youth, it actually took an affair with a humble German carpenter named Hans to help Miller escape her “nice-Jewish-girl destiny” and find her way home again.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        December 15, 2013
        A coming-of-age tale covering the author's 20s in Paris, where she studied, worked, lived on her own for the first time, fell in and out of love, and found solid ground beneath her feet. Miller (English and Comparative Literature/Graduate Center, CUNY; What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past, 2011, etc.) has previously mined her past in memoirs about herself and the lives of her parents. This book takes its name from the Godard film, which inspired the author, upon graduating from Barnard College in 1961, to move to Paris at 21. While studying at the Sorbonne, Miller sought freedom from her parents' incessant meddling and attempted to swap her "nice-Jewish-girl" identity for a life of sophistication and romance. She writes of her transformation from wide-eyed naif ("I didn't set out to sleep with Philippe") to a confident, individualized woman capable of making her own decisions--about whom to date, where to live and work, and the direction of her future. Repeatedly, she revisits her perceived lack of self-understanding and the myriad experiences that informed her self-awareness and capacity to recognize and give voice to her own desires. Miller's first year in France truly represented a necessary break from the lifelong pressures of "les parents terribles," and it was followed by more space after she received a Fulbright teaching fellowship, enabling her to stay longer. After a couple years, Miller met and eloped with an older American expat who ran a language school. The book's final half is dominated by the marriage's highs and lows, the latter of which contributed even more fully to Miller's break from controlling influences and resulted in her trusting her own judgment. Originally in search of salvation from her family, Miller found the external adventures she'd craved and painful ones she hadn't anticipated, and she went through a deeply personal transformation. Articulate, keen and satisfying.

        COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        November 1, 2013
        In the early 1960s, college students flocked to Europe, and Paris was the pinnacle of every trip. No wonder Miller finds herself drawn to the City of Lights for her first excursion away from the confines of her conservative, middle-class Jewish home. After graduation from Barnard College, she persuades her parents to let her study in France, where she promptly pushes aside American conservatism for more liberal sexual and intellectual mores. Miller's memoir will resonate with women who, over the years, have been fascinated by Jean Seberg's role as Patricia in the Godard film Breathless (1960). The movie is frequently cited for Patricia's independence, self-assurance, and fearlessnesstraits Miller seeks. Her look back is filled with vintage vignettes of garret apartments, matronly concierges, and the silk-lingerie splurges of a poor young student's milieu. She considers marriage to a Tunisian man, suffers through an illegal abortion, and ends up with an American expatriate who is more con man than the connoisseur he pretends to be. Readers may wish for even more photographs as Miller's memoir captures that influential era's essence.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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In the early 1960s, most middle-class American women in their twenties had their lives laid out for them: marriage, children, and life in the suburbs. Most, but not all. Breathless is the story of a girl who represents those who rebelled against conventional expectations. 

Paris was a magnet for those eager to resist domesticity, and like many young women of the decade, Nancy K. Miller was enamored of everything French—from perfume and Hermès scarves to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir and the New Wave films of Jeanne Moreau. After graduating from Barnard College in 1961, Miller set out for a year in Paris, with a plan to take classes at the Sorbonne and live out a great romantic life inspired by the movies. After a string of sexual misadventures, she gave up her short-lived freedom and married an American expatriate who promised her a lifetime of three-star meals and five-star hotels. But her husband wasn't who he said he was, and she...

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