The French Quarter: The Epic Struggle of a Family-and a Nation-Divided


324 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-921912-37-4
DDC 971.4





Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is an associate professor of history at the University
of Guelph.


If award-winning journalist Ron Graham really believes that Canada can
provide a point of contact only between individuals and not between
groups, it is difficult to say why he wrote this book. Part
autobiography, part genealogy, part history, and part journalism, it
tries to locate Graham’s personal and family background within the
context of the federalist/independentist struggle in Quebec. The
portraits of his roots in anglophone Westmount and meeting with the
French-Canadian relatives he knew little about are unrevealing
personally except to reaffirm his commitment to federalism. The
genealogy with which he explores his ancestors back to their arrival in
Quebec during the 17th century is of no more than individual interest,
while the potted history accompanying these portraits is thoroughly
familiar to historians. The journalistic snapshots that conclude the
book might read well in a daily newspaper, but they are too cursory to
appeal in this longer format.

Graham’s graceful prose and sharp eye for anecdote provide
compensations, but he is fundamentally wrong in his argument. Due to the
timing of its appearance, Arthur Haley’s Roots succeeded beyond
imagination. Americans were ready to explore a past that they knew
little about but that had caused them so much anguish. While in Canada
the continuing division between anglophones and francophones has created
a jaundiced outlook, Canadian history remains the encounter among
peoples, classes, regions, and sexes. An aboriginal or ethnic Roots told
from a woman’s perspective would be an instant success, but such
realms remain outside Graham’s yearning for a world we have lost.


Graham, Ron., “The French Quarter: The Epic Struggle of a Family-and a Nation-Divided,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,