Quebec Studies

Book Reviews: History

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 212–219.


BOOK REVIEWS HISTORY DOTY, C. STEWART. The First Franco-Americans. Maine: Univesity of Maine at Orono Press, 1985. Pp. 163. Orono, Professor C. Stewart Doty’s most recent contribution to Franco-American studies, The First Frunco-Amen’cans, subtitled ‘New England Life Histories from the Federal Writers’ Project 1938-1939,” 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 “interviewees”: 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 Doty’s book, the immigrants speak for themselves, and they do so remarkably well, considering their lack of any extensive formal education.

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