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Adéle Blais

Born in Montréal on August 9, 1976, I grew up in Sherbrooke, Québec, where my mother and I moved when I was one year old. Our family was a small one: just me and my mother. Our Sunday morning ritual was not held in any church. Starting early on Sunday mornings, we would cuddle up in front of our black and white television and watch all the kiddy shows while eating croissants topped with butter and honey. In the single-mother ghetto where we lived, the children were the law. We were worlds apart from the bungalow neighbourhoods. Our universe stopped at the end of High Street, a mini street close to downtown, that had a corner convenience store where the display of candies was every child’s dream. In the back of our four-apartment block, there was a rocky wooded area where the lilacs grew wild that was home to numerous hairy caterpillars. Their long creepy-crawly cocoons were to me so ugly that just seeing them made me itch all over, yet I was fascinated by them and would spend the longest time observing them.

I was also very intrigued by the prisoners in the municipal jail that was on the other side of our little woods. When we played near the high stone walls topped with barbed wire, the men behind the bars would call out to us and make signs with their hands. They told us funny stories and we were amused by them. I was never afraid of the prisoners, even those who escaped every so often. My teachers were much scarier. I think they didn’t like me because I preferred honeyed croissants to the prayers they wanted me to recite and that I didn’t understand. I think they didn’t appreciate either that my hair was short and that I wore camisoles over my blouses. They preferred the compound-named girls with heavily brushed long hair who knew how to count to 30. My name was just Adèle, I lived in a four-room apartment on High Street and I would rather, then as now, paint than count.