Franco-Americans will enjoy a cultural immersion in Robert B. Perreault’s personal historic memoir titled “Franco-American Life & Culture in Manchester New Hampshire: Vivre La Difference,” published by History Press.

Several decades worth of original stories, essays and personally collected photographs are woven into this cultural history. Some older stories were recorded while Perreault was doing an oral history project.

Aurore Dionne Eaton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association says the book is rich in the moment. Although he interviewed many people, many are no longer living.

“I admire his work on Franco-American life and culture in Manchester,” Eaton said.

Perreault, 60, teaches conversational French at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester. He is also a cultural leader in the Manchester community where he often gives historic lectures and tours.

His book is a mix of stories from people he interviewed and events he knows about.

“Personal stories are important for cultural preservation. You don’t find them in academic books,” he says.

Perrault grew up speaking French, and recalls speaking English for the first time at age 3. At that young age, he pointed to a neighbor’s dog and said “dog black” (putting the adjective before the noun). He didn’t understand why the English-speaking dog owner confused him by insisting it was a “black dog”.

He learned a great deal about his Franco-American culture through the decades of collecting stories. They were stories he learned on his own because they were not taught to him in school.

“I describe how parochial schools taught us very little about our heritage, even though we spoke French” he says.

A series of rare black and white photographs of people and places in the Manchester community are among the stories, some dating to the early 20th century.

Manchester attracted thousands of French-speaking Quebec immigrants who migrated to the city during the 19th and 20th centuries to find work or to provide services for people employed in the mills. Many photographs and stories in the book were collected by Perreault while he chronicled Manchester’s Franco history. Some were written several decades ago while documenting an oral history of Manchester.

“Some stories were still on papers I wrote on a typewriter,” he says.

In creating amix of stories in time and place, the older stories carry readers back to when the histories were first recorded, like they were recorded yesterday.

Each chapter title reflects the Franco-American experience — “From Quebec to Manchester,” “French vs. Irish,” and “Beyond Peyton Place” —and the book includes his comments on the historic significance of events described in the chapters. One chapter is dedicated “In Search of the Real Grace Metalious”, author of Peyton Place.

Manchester, at one time, shared the distinction of being the capital of French speaking New England. Lewiston, ME shared this self proclaimed title.

“In many ways, Lewiston and Manchester are similar,” says Perreault. He recalls when the late Lewiston writer Gerard Robichaud (author of “Papa Martel”) took him on a personal tour of Lewiston’s “Little Canada,” the neighborhoods where French immigrants lived.

“Manchester’s old Franco communities have been taken down. In spite of shared historic similarities, the Lewiston Francos kept their French language and culture longer, while Manchester’s seems diluted,” he says.

Although Manchester’s Franco-Americans are largely anglicized into the American culture, he credits the city’s East Side parish church of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue (Saint Anthony) for continuing to celebrate one Sunday French Mass in French.

In recent years, Perreault says he sees some Franco-Americans reawakened to their culture and the French language their ancestors spoke.

“I see Franco-Americans affirming their roots more strongly that ever.”