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Brault, Gerard J.

Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, c1986. 282pp, paper, ISBN 0-7735-0536-9 (cloth) $35.00, 0-7735-0537-7 (paper) $15.95. CIP

Reviewed by John Harkness

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

Gerard Brault, who is currently professor of French at Pennsylvania State University, was born and raised in a Franco-American milieu in Massachusetts, and has been collecting materials for this book since 1950. The result is this introduction to Franco-American Studies, which "will acquaint readers with the present state of knowledge about Franco-Americans." Consequently, though "aimed at specialists and non-specialists," I feel it will be a book with a limited appeal.

In his 282 pages, Brault writes only 184 pages of actual text and then makes up the rest of the total with fifteen pages of appendices, mostly statistics, forty pages of end notes, twenty-four pages of bibliography, and eighteen pages of index. Added to these are fourteen pages of black-and-white sketches and photographs.

The book is essentially about French-Canadians who moved to New England in the mid-nineteenth century. It was a "massive" movement, but of "relatively short duration, lasting only about sixty years." Probably about half of those who did migrate eventually returned to Quebec. One of the chief reasons for the explosion of this French Canadian immigration was the demand for textile workers in the post-American Civil War boom period in southern New England. As Brault wryly comments, "The French Canadians have the distinction of being the only major ethnic group to have immigrated to the U.S. in any significant number by train."

In chapter 4, the author traces his own family's history to illustrate another aspect of the immigration progression; from France to Acadia, deportation to the American colonies, back to Canada, then immigration to New England again. The author himself was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, in the last phase mentioned above.

Brault concludes with a survey of Franco-Americans today. Of the thirteen million Americans who claim a French ancestry, most are clustered in the six New England states and in Louisiana and, like many other ethnic groups, are stirring to rekindle pride in their heritage and to revive their culture.

I do not see this as a book for the general reader. It could be useful as a library resource book for those seeking to research multiculturalism and for those who have a special interest in Franco-North American social and cultural history.

John Harkness, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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