Benoît Pelletier Shoja was born in 1979 at the former Memorial Hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire, to Jafar Shoja and Yvette Pelletier Shoja. He grew up on South Main Street and is known as B.J., Pitou and Bijan to friends and family. He began his education at White Wing School before entering first grade at Saint-Enfant-Jesus parochial school in 1985. He attended Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School (1991-1994) and was a member of the French National Honor Society at Bishop Guertin High School, where he graduated in June 1997. Immediately following this he participated in an intensive six-week French immersion program at Middlebury College, Vermont, and that fall began his freshman year at Saint Michael's College, in that same state. He pursued a major in French and participated in several study abroad programs, including one at l'Université Laval in Québec (1999) and another at l'Université de Pau et des pays de l'Adour in southwestern France (2000). He graduated cum laude from Saint Michael's College in May 2001 and soon after relocated to Sheffield, Massachusetts, where he worked at the Berkshire School as an academic support tutor, assistant coach and boys' dormitory parent. He returned to Nashua in the spring of 2003 and has been employed since that time as a research clerk and data librarian at the New Hampshire State Archives and Records Management facility in Concord. He moved to that city in March 2006.
In 2000, Benoit collaborated with local Franco-American community leaders who were raising funds for the statue, “La Dame de notre renaissance francaise,” which was erected the following year, by submitting an essay that appears in the companion book, The Third Century: A Recognition of Franco-Americans. Since that time he has continued to play an active role in local Franco-American affairs. For many years he was a volunteer at the American-Canadian Genealogical Society and at the Centre franco-américain, both in Manchester, New Hampshire, and for two years starting in 2005, he was board secretary and newsletter editor for the Nashua chapter of Richelieu International.
Benoit is a charter member of the Bibliothèque nationale franco-americaine (2009) and a former member of the board of directors of the Société historique franco-américaine (2009-2010). For three years starting in 2007, he was board secretary of La Cour Lafayette in Concord, and from 2008 to 2010, he was a member of the board of incorporators of the Centre franco-américain.
An amateur genealogist since the age of sixteen, Benoit has been able to trace his maternal lineage to sixteenth-century France and has written several articles about his ancestors for genealogical and historical reviews in both the United States and Canada, and online. In July 2005, at the invitation of the mayor of Gallardon, France, he was one of several North Americans who travelled there for the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the birth of their common immigrant ancestor (Nicolas Peltier) some 400 years before. During his stay in France, Benoît undertook a week of research at the Archives départementales d'Eure-et-Loir in nearby Chartres, where he uncovered his ancestral origins. He presented his findings that following September in Québec City at the dedication of another commemorative monument in honor of this same ancestor, erected by the Association des familles Pelletier.
For five years starting in 2005, Benoit was a member of the board of directors for the Lévesque Association, a family and genealogy society headquartered in Québec City. He served as vice-president (United States) and was also a member of its research committee, in charge of paleographical transcriptions.
A lover of uncommon musical instruments, Benoit plays the spoons, the washboard and the limberjack; he also sings French-Canadian call-and-response songs and performs seated clogging. He has accompanied different local bluegrass ensembles in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and has participated in several traditional French-Canadian music events in Québec and around New England. He has likewise organized two traditional French-Canadian song and music parties in Concord, as well as helped coordinate the Festival de la Tourtière, a musical soirée produced by La Cour Lafayette in November 2007.
In February 2008, Benoit was named International Ambassador by the organizers of the Chantez-vous bien chez nous music festival in Saint-Bernard-de-Michaudville, Québec. They describe him on their website as “an unconditional fan” of traditional Québécois music, an “avid spectator” and “popular figure” at most of the important festivals and shows in Québec. He is a friend of the festival and an adopted son of the people of Saint-Bernard.
For ten days in June 2009, Benoit participated in the first ever Forum des jeunes ambassadeurs de la francophonie des Amériques, in Québec City, which brought together fifty young French speakers from all over the North and South American continents.