**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris

Deer Hunting in ParisIf the title doesn’t tip you off, I can confirm that Deer Hunting in Paris packs a ton of surprises.

Recently awarded the 2014 Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers, the tale follows a Korean-American preacher’s daughter from Paris, France to Paris, Maine where our liberal, long-standing vegetarian author falls in love with a conservative carnivore and learns to cook everything from moose liver to deer heart. “Julia Child prepping roadkill,” one reviewer quips.

As someone who leans toward the secular end of the spectrum, steers clear of firearms, and has always been confounded by hunting’s appeal, the book’s subtitle – A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat – announced I would be entering very foreign territory. The fact that I laughed out loud on the first page (and that the funny one-liners kept coming) reassured me that I’d be in good hands for the journey. Deer Hunting in Paris is surely the most unique book I’ve ever found filed in the French travel section!

Paula Young Lee holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago and writes frequently on subjects related to human-animal relations. The author of five books and over 25 scholarly articles, she also contributes to Salon.com and similar venues. She splits her time between Wellesley, Massachusetts, and West Paris, Maine.

I’m delighted she’s on the blog today – and that she’s offered to give away *2* signed copies of the book! Details on how to win at the end of the post!

Author Paula Lee

Author Paula Lee

You’ve authored several books, many on fascinatingly specific subjects including Meat, Modernity and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (as editor) and Game: A Global History. Much of your academic knowledge as a cultural food historian comes out in Deer Hunting in Paris, but the book is your first foray into memoir. How did writing a memoir differ from working on some of your other projects? What did you learn in the process?

Academic writing demands suppression of the self. The less of you that manifests in the writing, the better it is as a document. By contrast, memoir requires the omnipresence of self, so it is the polar opposite of the scholarly voice.

I tend to work on both academic and non-academic writing at the same time — and I mean this literally, with various book projects being written simultaneously. I often feel as if I am two people. A serious intellectual and a total goofball. Writing wise, memoir presents a creative outlet that is also relaxing. No footnotes.

Most of Deer Hunting in Paris takes place in Paris, Maine, not Paris, France. But you did meet your boyfriend John while living in the City of Light – only you met him online and he lived back in the USA. In the book’s prologue, the first mention of the French capital says that Paris “bears remarkably little resemblance to the romantic fantasies spun about it.” Could you elaborate?

When you live in a place for any length of time, the commercial ends pretty quickly. Even Carrie Bradshaw hated Paris after she ran out of museums and cafes to visit.

My experience of this city was more Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London than Hemingway’s A Movable Feast, which doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a wonderful time. It just didn’t involve shopping, eating out, or doing anything that involved money.

Maine winter

It mostly involved meeting lots of interesting people and spending huge amounts of time in archives. If you’re a researcher in hot pursuit of answers to an especially irritating historical question, being an archive rat is heaven on earth no matter if you’re too poor to pay your electric bill for heat.

And, despite the fact that the memoir switched locales from Paris, France, to Paris, Maine, the idea was to illuminate the respective ways that both places are weirdly the same. For example, my expat friends used to ask me how it was that I made French friends and knew my neighbors.

I told them it was because I grew up in small town Maine and understood how the neighborhoods worked, especially in relationship to church, the post office, the pharmacy, and to fresh, unfussy food. This last being what you get in a French home (as distinct from a French restaurant.)

I found it interesting in Chapter 3 that you switch from the past tense to using the present tense for the rest of the book stating “from now on, everything unfolds in the imminent present…I don’t know the outcome…” (pg 46). This speaks to an aspect of memoir I often ponder: how the narrative evolves while working on it. (Even the very act of putting it on paper can change the lived reality!) How do you approach writing a long-form personal project (I read that this book took you 3 years) when the events are happening as you’re writing it?

I mulled over switching the tenses but wanted to emphasize that this document was not, and is not, history. In other words, I didn’t decide to write it after the happy ending had been reached. That’s a rom-com.

Instead, I started writing things down as they were happening, in the manner of a dictation machine or a diary. Ultimately, I decided on the present tense in order to try and convey a sense of uncertainty, of reacting to things as they were happening and not knowing how I felt about things. It takes me a very long time to sort out my feelings. My impatient brain, on the other hand, has its own opinions about my feelings. They often disagree.

You tackle so much in this book – the politics of hunting and eating meat, your parents’ immigrant experience, being a preacher’s daughter, the culture of rural Maine, the sexual attraction between polar opposites, life, death. Did you set out with all of these themes in mind or did they emerge as you wrote? (In other words, how did this book come to be?)

I am engaged with all of these topics as an academic researcher, so they tend to pervade everything I write.

Why did you want to tell this story and what do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Somewhat perversely, I am most attracted to that which I don’t understand. Because I don’t think I’m alone in this, I decided to write this memoir as a way to share what I learned about people who hold vastly different worldviews from my own.

Opposites attract: the author and her boyfriend John

Opposites attract: the author and her boyfriend John

In the beginning of the memoir, the strangers I observe are global expats in France. Later, the people are conservative Republicans in the US, including the Yankee who becomes my boyfriend. His mind still baffles me, but this is also why we are still happily together.

In this same vein, I wrote it because I wanted to tell a story about real love that ditched the fantasies and got to the truth of human desires. That raw truth is sometimes difficult to take. Blood, guts, death, and life: in a city like Paris, these things coexist with the fashion and the glamor. This is what tourists often miss but French people understand very well.

For the sake of all my single friends genuinely wanting to find true love, I wrote this book as an explanation for how to get there, without it being an explicit how-to-find-love book. It’s actually all in the title. “Deer Hunting in Paris.” If you fixate on the romantic illusions represented by “Paris,” your hunt for love will never be successful. You may get le mariage, but you will also get le divorce. Only by being willing to change your expectations and parameters, and maybe conceding that the ungirly, vaguely disreputable stuff (i.e. deer hunting) might not be what you think, you may end up running right into the partner of your dreams.

Thank you, Paula!

To enter to win a free, signed copy of Deer Hunting in Paris, leave a comment on this post by Monday, October 6, noon EST.

You can read sample chapters and buy the book here.

UPDATE! Names have been drawn from the hat. Congratulations Barbara and Karin on winning a free copy!

54 Responses to “**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris”

  1. 1 lupinssupins September 30, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Sounds interesting! And I am relieved to see that Paris, France does not have a deer hunting season! I don’t understand hunting either, myself, but I once had to fix venison for Christmas dinner. This was thanks to my youngest brother, an avid deer hunter, having presented my father with a big ole hunk of the stuff from his most recent prize and my father turning it over to us to do the honors. As my very frank then-husband said, the marinade, consisting of 2 single-spaced legal-sized pages of ingredients [had to go out and find currant jelly and a whole bunch of arcane herbs], tasted far better than the finished roast.


    • 2 Karin B September 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Wow, there are a lot of things I find in common with my life story and this life story. I’d love to give it a read, so crossing fingers I can get a copy — I’m going to go set this as a “To Read” on Goodreads right now! I’m glad to know about this book — I think reading it could help me understand my journey as well.

      Thanks, Paula, for writing the book and answering questions on Sion’s blog. I’m really glad to know about this book! (And thanks, Sion, for telling your readers about it.)


      • 3 Karin B September 30, 2014 at 2:51 pm

        (Oops! I’m using WordPress comments for the first time on my phone and intended the above to be a standalone comment! Alas, I’ve not figured out how to do that, yet. I’ll get there…)


      • 4 paris (im)perfect October 1, 2014 at 3:06 pm

        Hiya! Yeah, I’d say you both have pretty interesting life stories! Thanks for commenting, chica. Hope that you’re finding what you need on this part of your journey.


    • 5 paris (im)perfect October 1, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Wow! I’d have no idea what to do with venison (ahem, I have trouble in the kitchen with even standard fare!) And yes, it’s true: no deer hunting in Paris, France (I had the same first thought, too). Paula’s book actually made me understand hunting a little more, though it’s still not for me! (Hmm, my comment didn’t seem to appear in the right place. This was in response to the first comment by lupinssupins!)


      • 6 lupinssupins October 2, 2014 at 6:38 am

        Well, according to my now ex-husband, “what to do with venison” is to “Drink the fancy, complicated marinade, then throw venison away”! Tastes too gamey, although the marinade is supposed to help tame that. It seemed much stronger than the elk roast and bison burgers that I had as a teenager during my family’s stay with our late aunt and uncle in Oregon. I guess I can understand Westerners being into hunting as several of my kinfolk out there are — given the terrain and much longer “gun culture” in their history. But my baby brother is an anomaly among us 5 Missourians. I don’t even like to be around guns.


    • 7 Paula Lee October 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      This problem is actually the subject of my latest book, a “thinkbook” about cooking venison, called The Hunter’s Haunch. I had similar problems when first started cooking the stuff and dislike complicated recipes, so I eventually figured out the very simple way to get rid of gamy toughness.


  2. 8 Liene K September 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Count me in please! I live in the South (of the US) where hunting is still a family tradition that is considered a right, not a privilege. I worked for natural resources for years, so I think this book would definitely be an interesting read for me.


  3. 10 Jackie September 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    I too, am most attracted to that which I don’t understand. I would like to read this book.


  4. 12 Suzanne Hurst September 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I’d love to read this book, because I’ve been to Paris, France and Paris, Maine LOL. In fact my 2 favorite places in the world besides my native KY are France and Maine.


  5. 15 Nina Lorch September 30, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks, Sion, for the book recommendation and the interview with the author. I am a big fan of the memoir, especially when food and uncharted territory are involved! I recently finished a book that meets those criteria and which you (and your followers) might enjoy: “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China” by Fuchsia Dunlop. And I’ll send you my annotated 2014 book recommendations at the end of the year, too.


  6. 17 Tracy Carlton September 30, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    This book sounds fascinating! Having been an expat and an urban girl and now living in a rural area in the US I can’t wait to read this. I have a feeling I’m going to love her. Thank you for sharing her with us!


  7. 19 Jerry September 30, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I bet you are keeping your honeymoon options open– consider Paris, Texas… Going to local bookstore to find a copy for each if several Francophile gun toting friends …


    • 20 paris (im)perfect October 1, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Ha! There *are* a lot of places named Paris in the world! (Yesterday I just discovered a Paris, Tennessee, too!) I’m sure Paula will be happy to hear you’re going out to get her book for several friends.


      • 21 lupinssupins October 2, 2014 at 6:19 am

        Might I add Paris, Idaho to the list? You’ve got Bear Lake, the Wasatch Mountains, a national forest and you’re within commuting distance from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in next-door Wyoming. I love my parents’ home state of Idaho!


    • 22 Paula Lee October 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      Yes, Paula is very happy and hopes that you and your friends enjoy the read!


  8. 23 Shelby September 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    What an interesting premise! Coming from a French family who love to hunt on our ranch in Texas, it sounds almost familiar.
    Thanks for sharing the interview and putting the book out for us to find!


  9. 25 I Say Oui September 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    You’re very good at writing book reviews!

    It’s true that when you live in Paris, every moment is not a dream, but I still find it romantic.


  10. 27 Devra Long October 1, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Just finished “Mastering the Art of French Eating” and loved it!! This sounds like the perfect book to read next!


  11. 29 Karene October 1, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Fascinating interview and post, Sion. I must admit at first glance I was put-off by the title/cover, as hunting is anathema to me. So glad I read further, haha. This sounds like my kind of book!


    • 30 paris (im)perfect October 1, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      I totally get you, Karene. I actually feel queasy thinking about it. What I appreciated about Paula’s book is that it helped me understand something I truly didn’t before. It’s pretty remarkable when we can gain insight into something that mystified us before. It probably helped to have a progressive, former-vegetarian walk me through the tale, too. And she has so many other interesting parts of her history and has a good sense of humor.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. 31 Barbara Skeslien October 1, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading


  13. 33 Stephanie Smith October 2, 2014 at 4:37 am

    Would love to read this book!!


  14. 35 Alex Sanderson October 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    After 14 years in Paris it is nice sometimes to have a fresh perspective. I look forward to reading the book whether I win it or not 🙂


  15. 37 voltairesse October 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I’m new here, but wow, it’s already clear I’ve hit pay-dirt: Your blog is a true find (and I’ve only been through a five-minute speed scan).

    Having truly lived the “down and out in London and Paris” gig eons ago, autumn always brings out my inner Parisienne. I get incredibly homesick, despite recalling genuinely miserable moments that aren’t dulled a moment’s worth of feeling wet, chilled to the bone, and starving, with a Metro ride a rare treat.

    I was inevitably asked how the food was; few believed my reply that I hadn’t a clue. I could tell them only about baguettes, eggs, and the stray jambon et frommage or croque madame when my paltry francs allowed so heavenly a luxury.

    Too many encounters with lengthy food shortages eventually turned me omnivorous, teaching me why vegetarianism seemed a luxury to most of the world. The hungry person eats what s/he can get. Having lived in every possible socio-economic phase, rich to poor to middlin’, from country to urban to suburban (that last honestly the worst among the lot), and in various points around the globe., I can appreciate a good deal, indeed.

    And I have known a few hunters. These, too, range from those who practice it at a subsistence level to those who’ve zoomed their Maserati or Jaguar to and from the airport, jetting from Geneva to London to Paris, then off to Prague on a hunting holiday in a lodge amidst the Czech countryside.

    I am torn by it. Given the way current agri-business has transformed food culture in the U.S.–especially in the meat industry–I’ve come to see that today, it is far more humane for carnivores to eat game. These animals have lived not in crowded pens, in filth and with cruel, total disregard for their health and welfare but, instead, have lived their entire lives as Nature intended, wild and free, right up to their last moments.

    As a result, I have seen how hunting becomes not only a means to provide food for one’s family, but as well, a meditation on the meaning of life, with an appreciation of a full range of lessons. We appreciate our own history, as well as philosophy, math, science–of how energy can be neither created nor destroyed and thus, we live only by consuming that which is alive. Our senses are heightened, as hearing, sound, vision become acute, and we enter a zen-like eternity in mere moments, for we are here and now and nowhere else.

    Because only life can give life, hunting’s stark realities force us to remove our blinders to the duality of existence here. We see life’s frailty and its endurance–despite the odds–as we human animals return to the state of being merely just another caloric-seeking creature who is but one among equals on this planet. We are an animal who, like all other creatures, could at any moment become a cougar’s prey as easily as the deer in our sites. The useless details of fashion, career-food-chain, investment annuities, economic devastation…all of it is reduced to the lowest common denominator of existence: food, caloric energy, life–with even our own being reduced to a mere nanosecond in the scheme of things.

    So, while I don’t care for killing anything, I still do kill, even if only by my rare order of a piece of meat, whether at the market or at the restaurant table.

    I still eat meat very sparingly; when I do get access to game, I prefer it for those reasons. I happen to like its taste, as well. (To this day, there is still no rival to the lapins served up by the Washingtonian bistro Le Gaulois years ago, near l’Enfant Plaza, but which–sadly–exists no longer.)

    So yes, this New Englander-Parisienne would surely appreciate reading such a book, I’d imagine.


    • 38 Jackie October 3, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      Thank you for your post and literally giving “food for thought.”


      • 39 paris (im)perfect October 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

        Yeah, I agree with Jackie. Thanks so much for your post and thoughts! I’m very glad you stumbled onto my blog and believe yes, you would appreciate Paula’s book. A lot of what you bring up she also touches on. The “ethical hunting” she describes with her boyfriend’s family really did make me open my eyes. I still can’t get on board with hunting for sport. But yes, agribusiness and the mass factory farming of meat is just so gross. Going out into the wild where animals have lived free their whole lives for your food – yes, much more humane! There’s something about the reverence for life and understanding of death experienced up close like that. Certainly more considered than getting cuts at the grocery store or ordering up in a restaurant where it’s so easy to forget where it really came from. Definitely food for thought! Thank you!


    • 40 Karene October 6, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Love your comment . . . a lot to ponder.


  16. 41 Donna Pointer October 6, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Not only does this book sound interesting, but the comments so far are priceless.


  17. 43 Margaret October 6, 2014 at 11:44 am

    What a great title for what sounds like a fascinating read.

    Please include me in the draw – I’d love to win a copy!

    Thank you,


  18. 45 villalaluna October 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    When we first moved to France I was frightened of Paris. It was full of people, it was noisy, it was dirty; it was everything I hated about New York City when I lived there for four years. We were coming from a small California resort town, up the Russian River, hidden in the redwoods. My husband, born and bred in the post-war Belleville of picturesque crumbling buildings and vacant lots, could not really understand, but nevertheless humored, my need for space, my need for green. The Buttes Chaumont was all the nature he needed. So we got in the car and started driving north. We continued driving north, past fields and forests, until we found a house for sale that we could afford. We were 50 miles north of Paris, in a small rural village, reasonably close to a good-sized town. The 1970’s tract house (no charming stone and/or brick farmhouse for us) had the advantage of being cheap and not requiring much work. As the last house on the street before it turned into a dirt road, fields of wheat, corn, potatoes and sugar beets surrounded us, as far as the eye could see.

    We moved in late summer and enrolled my son in the two-room schoolhouse. He quickly made friends and they would spend a lot of time roaming the fields and the woods around the village. We too would walk with the dogs, down the dirt road, towards the abandoned sugar mill with its towering brick chimney. In the late afternoon we would see roe deer in the fields. We knew where the rabbit warrens were, in the thick underbrush; the dogs especially appreciated the droppings; “free-range raisins” I called them. In the fall, we wandered in the forests, picked wild mushrooms and I learned to appreciate their earthy flavor.

    Then one day, my son came over with his new friend. They had something in a plastic bag. His new friend explained that it was a welcome gift from his father. It was a freshly shot wild rabbit. His father had taken the trouble to drain the blood but otherwise, there he was, in all his fur, glory and buckshot. I was touched. I thanked him profusely. I was challenged. My city husband knew nothing of skinning and dressing rabbits. I knew nothing of skinning and dressing rabbits. However I had The Joy of Cooking, and right there, on pages 513 and 514 was all I needed to know. Equipped with rubber gloves in case of possible tularemia, and armed with various and sundry knives, I followed the instructions. I’m very good at following instructions. Although not as easy as the Joy makes it seem (the picture looks like they’re removing the rabbit’s pajamas), I managed to skin, gut and cut up my prize without excessive cursing. I marinated, I stewed, and we ate the rabbit. I was very proud of myself.

    A few days later, while driving through the forest one afternoon, a pheasant darted out in front of our car. In a split second we realized that it was either the ditch or the pheasant. We did not hesitate: Joy of Cooking, p. 435, “About Wildfowl” and page 438, “About Pheasant”.


  19. 49 doreenmaloney October 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Paula, congrats…would love a copy…and maybe you remember dinner in Lexington!

    all best



  20. 50 Karin B October 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    I am SO excited about having a chance to read this book! Thank you, Sion and Paula, for this chance to read a copy of Deer Hunting in Paris!


  21. 51 Karin B October 6, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Reblogged this on Looking for Ballast and commented:
    I’m really excited to report I’m one of the winners of a copy of Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee! Thanks to Sion of blog Paris Imperfect, one I’ve been reading since its start in 2010 and one whose writer I’ve also been privileged to call “friend.”

    I hope to blog more soon, but my mother’s gone on vacation and taken the WiFi hotspot with her! I’m stuck with Starbucks, the Library, or my phone. It’s the phone on which I’m pecking this tiny missive now with my right pointer finger. 😉

    Soon, Readers, I hope to share more thoughts, but for now I want to share my excitement about this book. Please read Sion’s terrific Q&A with the author!



  22. 52 Elizabeth G. Marro October 9, 2014 at 2:31 am

    The title alone grabs me but the interview sealed the deal. Thanks. As a lefty who grew up in the northern reaches of New Hampshire, I look forward to the mashup of cultures in Maine.


  1. 1 »Blog Archive Set in the City of Light - Trackback on October 3, 2014 at 6:15 am

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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