Loyal but French: The Negotiation of Identity by French-Canadian Descendants in the United States

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Overview

By focusing on patterns of immigration and acculturation in a small industrial city in the northeastern United States, Mark Paul Richard offers a noteworthy look at the ways in which French-Canadians negotiated their identity in the United States and provides new insights into the ways in which immigrants "Americanize."
     Richard’s work challenges prevailing notions of "assimilation." As he shows, “acculturation” better describes the roundabout process by ...

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Overview

By focusing on patterns of immigration and acculturation in a small industrial city in the northeastern United States, Mark Paul Richard offers a noteworthy look at the ways in which French-Canadians negotiated their identity in the United States and provides new insights into the ways in which immigrants "Americanize."
     Richard’s work challenges prevailing notions of "assimilation." As he shows, “acculturation” better describes the roundabout process by which some ethnic groups join their host society. He argues that, for more than a century, the French- Canadians in Lewiston, Maine, pursued the twin objectives of ethnic preservation and acculturation. These were not separate goals but rather intertwined processes. Underscored with statistics compiled by the author, Loyal but French portrays the French-Canadian history of Lewiston, from the 1880s through the 1990s, in this light.

    With a wealth of data, the insights of a professional historian, and the sensitivity of a "local," Richard offers a new conceptualization of ways that immigrants become "Americans."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870138379
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Pages: 388
  • Sales rank: 1,012,553
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Paul Richard is the associate director of the Center for the Study of Canada/Institute on Quebec Studies at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh.

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  • Posted October 23, 2008

    French-Canadian immigrants in Maine become American

    Richard takes a sociological approach to follow how French-Canadians in the small Maine city of Lewiston became more and more integrated into and reflective of American society by what he calls a process of "acculturation" which he opposes to the concept of "assimilation" ordinarily applied to how immigrant groups become a part of American society. The author is from Lewiston, and is now coordinator for the Canadian Studies program at SUNY-Plattsburg.<BR/><BR/>Mostly from the Quebec area, the French-Canadians began coming to Lewiston in the mid 1800s, when the Maine city was a thriving mill town with a Protestant population. Like the Irish in other parts of the U.S. at this time, the French-Canadians met with prejudice for their Catholicism. Churches were attacked, and they found only the most menial, arduous employment. Like other immigrant groups too throughout U.S. history, they kept mostly to themselves in enclaves where their native language was spoken. But the pathway to becoming fully a part of American society was not simply or fundamentally according to Richard a single-minded effort to overcome resistance from local Anglo Protestants. The French-Canadians had no desire nor intention to shed their background or identity to become "American" as quickly as possible. Though meaning to become Americans, they did so in their own way. "French-Canadian descendants became political and cultural members of the host society at their own pace, on their own terms, and largely with their own resources."<BR/><BR/>Richard follows this development of acculturation occurring over many decades with statistics, studies, and data revealing all its diversified, yet interrelated facets. This material ranges from statistical tables, data on marriage partners, citizenship records, political changes, and education and labor records. This material is interspersed with news reports covering incidents of violence for example and vignettes on individuals or local organizations. Despite the heavily sociological, largely objective perspective, the material is generally not dry as it is sharply focused on a recognizable community.<BR/><BR/>Though focusing on a small immigrant community in a small city in the upper northeastern reaches of the United States, Richard sees his detailed study as representative, not atypical of immigrant group patterns, behavior, and mentality. Though the material is not slanted to make an argument for this, near the end Richard proffers that his study "challenges our understanding of the process of Americanization and has implications for policymakers. He notes specifically that it challenges the notion that immigrants have been "uprooted" or "transplanted." As his study discloses, immigrants do in a meaningful sense bring their "roots" with them and engage in a more involved and drawn-out process of transplanting than policymakers and the public generally realize.

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