6x9 Trade Paperback, 234 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1478749875

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The story of the Sauciers is that of the struggles of ordinary French men and women who, transcending difficulties to raise families in an unforgiving environment, undergirded the establishment of both La Nouvelle France and La Louisiane. While A Mississippi First Family is about the Sauciers and their descendants, in a larger sense, it is about all those who have left a known world behind to make a life for themselves in an unknown world.

Stories told by her husband, Gene Saucier, of his French relatives and their way of life in Mississippi in the early 1800s, tales handed down to him by his father, piqued the author's interest in the history of this family. Their story, though dug out from a bare fact here and a tantalizing comment there from the historical record, is based on wide-ranging research. Though sadly the lives of ordinary people go unrecorded, this lack does not discount their importance for it is in their lives that the heart and soul of a nation can be found.

Giulia L. Saucier is a graduate of Florida State University, Smith College, and The University of Southern Mississippi, where she earned her Ph.D. She lives on a tree farm in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with her husband whose French ancestors arrived to settle on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1699.

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April 3, 2017
"This is a remarkable book, not just for those readers who belong to the Saucier family line, to whom the book is dedicated, but for others, outsiders like myself, who happen to be interested in the historiography of the Deep South and of Mississippi in particular, as seen through the lens of a founding settler family. We meet a reticent and snaky past, one that spirits as many questions as it answers, maybe more, but remains throughout a fascinating read of a perseverant family written by a writer and scholar of their ranks.

Late in the book the author uses an image to evoke the elusive nature of this immigrant family history that opens in France in the seventeen century, moves to Canada and La Louisiana, expands across the Gulf Coast and Mississippi, and ends in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. "Like a woman startled by a noise in a darkened room, History raises her lamp to peer into the corners of the ages, searching the shadows for an explanation. She writes her surmise from what the lamp reveals, a report necessarily incomplete, however inspired" (145). The past is not a foreign country as David Lowenthal thought, full of strange behaviors and muddled events brought nearer to readers by the illustrious historian, but, rather, in Saucier's case, a sound, an enticement, near enough for a brave and ardent soul to investigate, but forever a past that remains draped mostly in silence, just out of enlightenment's reach.

Reconstructing past events from a few found sounds – a snippet here, a tick there – into a semblance of reality takes effort and a great deal of restraint. Someone has to get up and hold the lamp of curiosity, for history does not write itself. Someone too has to connect the dots and measure the importance of the evidence, since history does not self-interpret. How tempting it must be to fill in the gaps of the past through narrative – it was a mouse I heard, nothing more, now go back to sleep – and make the fractured way of our arrival from whence we came into a tidy story with few open ends and plenty of identifiable protagonists and antagonists.

Dr. Giulia L. Saucier will have none of that. She shows her hand in the front matter, choosing not to title the eleven chapters with a narrative skeleton imposed upon the gifts of the archive that would invite cruel demands on the writer and unfounded expectations on the reader. She leaves the silences be. She knows that what is not spoken about or written of still tells us something. Silences often speak of what a people had to endure, in a voice more clearly than a biased and prejudiced one trying too hard to describe and massage events into place.

History is never easy, not even when it concerns those at the center of attention at the top of a hierarchy. How much more difficult the task when the subject involves those who faced the brunt of history but who received little credit for it. The Sauciers have lived mostly in the margins of history, in the silences between occasional soundings. Ordinary people in extraordinary times do not see much ink spilled in their regard, not even by the detailed French who set about documenting their colonial history, throwing prescience and embarrassment to the wind.

Yet a picture of a family, or of a kind of family that helped put the Gulf Coast side of Mississippi on the map, emerges from this book. It is a picture of a hard scrabble people who endured – and continue to endure – sweltering summers, acidic soils, violent hurricanes, hungry insects, and pestering bureaucrats with a twinkle in their eyes. We meet in this book a people who take care of their kith and kin, who love the soil and the matters of life that grow upon it, and who do not mind very much if history continues to overlook them. They have found a life, a life of their own making, out at the margins of history but in the middle of God's country.

Facts are no guarantor of accurate interpretation. But when the facts – the documented kind preserved in written form, or the scripted kind remembered in oral tellings – are hard to come by, the job of the historian has just been made all the more difficult. Many historians would have thrown in the towel faced with such an insurmountable task. That the author persisted where many would not makes this book of a founding family in Mississippi all the more admirable.

How did she manage such a difficult task? The short answer: Love. This book is a testament to the love this married-in Saucier has for her affines. The work had to be done, done right and gotten out of the way, so that the author could pen a tribute to the source of that enduring love. A Mississippi First Family: The Sauciers from 1603 to 1865 sets the background, the context and worldview, for a legendary Saucier, her husband Gene, for whom history will respect far better than it did his ancestors. Read this book and learn about the family, then pick up A Mississippi Man and read about the man.

Both books, in the interstices of silence, tell a fine story about the woman who wrote them."
-- Jeffrey Charles Kaufmann

July 15, 2015
"A welcome book from a noted historian which details the history of one of the first families to settle Mississippi. As part of the family, we have bits and pieces but Dr. Saucier has produced a well written and interesting, fact based history of our French family roots. Interesting and filled with fascinating stories which will keep the reader engaged. FYI: Saucier is French for sauce maker!"
-- Dr. Karen Saucier Lundy

April 23, 2015
"An accurate historical account of the Gulf Coast culture and history. This book is well written and entertaining. It is one of the best narrative genealogies of a French Colonial family that I have read.The Saucier name has been on the Coast from the beginning but Giulia is a new name among local genealogists. She is a historian with a PhD from USM."
-- Placide N. Nicaise

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