BOOK REVIEWS HISTORY
DOTY, C. STEWART.
The First Franco-Americans.
Maine: Univesity of Maine at Orono Press, 1985. Pp. 163.
Professor C. Stewart Dotyâ€™s most recent contribution to
Franco-American studies, The First Frunco-Amenâ€™cans, subtitled
â€˜New England Life Histories from the Federal Writersâ€™ Project
1938-1939,â€ is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest
in this ethnic group. Professor Doty breaks new ground with
this book, and for doing so he deserves high praise.
The work is a collection of life-history narratives recorded
in the 1930s. Persons interviewed immigrated from Canada to
New England in the last third of the nineteenth century and in
the early years of the twentieth century. They represent a crosssection of working-class people about whom precious little has
been known. They come from four different parts of New
England and from various occupational fields. The narratives
are uncensored and presented in standard English.
The book is divided into four major sections, based on the
place of residence of the â€œintervieweesâ€: Manchester (New
Hampshire), Old Town (Maine), Barre (Vermont), and
Woonsocket (Rhode Island). A general Introduction provides a
useful context, and a substantive Afterword offers tentative
answers to certain nagging questions. Bibliographic data are
liberally sprinkled throughout the text.
Each section begins with a socio-historical sketch of the
community in which the subjects lived and worked. In addition
to details relevant to a given city or town, these sketches also include data of a more general nature, such as information on the
roles of kinship and labor unions in the lives of the FrenchCanadian immigrants.
Doubtless the most significant achievement of these narratives is to bring the reader into direct contact with the existential
reality of a generation which, to a regrettable degree, has been
either an abstraction, or a hypothetical entity seen through the
eyes of the Franco-American elite. Here, in Professor Dotyâ€™s
book, the immigrants speak for themselves, and they do so
remarkably well, considering their lack of any extensive formal