True North, Down South
Tales of a Professional Canadian in America
by David Stewart
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Pub Date 20 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 19 Sep 2022
Using a Canadian émigré lens, David Wayne Stewart’s essay collection, True North, Down South, entertains and educates readers about immigrant and national identity, cultural misunderstandings, and belonging in the modern world.
Stewart’s Canadian identity was contested by Quebec separatists when he was a child, then again in his adult life as an immigrant to the United States. Along the way, he found himself homesick in the U.S., opening an immigration law clinic in North Carolina before he was thrust unexpectedly into a role as a “professional Canadian.”
In engaging and compelling prose, True North, Down South tells twenty-eight insightful and sometimes humorous personal stories of growing up in Canada and carving out an adult life in the United States. Stewart details spending his childhood in an asbestos mining town in 1970s Quebec, coming of age in Montreal, establishing roots in the United States, and promoting Canadian-American relations in Silicon Valley. Charming and approachable, this collection leaves readers with a deeper awareness of what it feels like to be an outsider, a homesick immigrant, and a bridge-builder for two nations more culturally distinct than they appear.
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“Rich with insights, humor, and wisdom, True North, Down South gently draws readers across borders of language, culture, politics, and technology. With a genial, gregarious empathy, David Wayne Stewart becomes a deft guide around a continent uneasily shared by diverse Canadians and Americans. A pleasure to read, like a day spent with a new best friend, True North, Down South gradually percolates a deeper wisdom about our very human dilemmas.” —Alan Taylor, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies
“For any wandering Canadian, this open-hearted account of one expat’s experience in America will be excellent company. But what enlarges and deepens David Wayne Stewart’s memoir is the extended dive he takes into how we carry where we’re from. Cutting through familiar tropes about Canada and the U.S. or the allure of simple nostalgia, he probes the ways a home country continues to shape us over decades, and how these patterns can become even more complex with time, affecting our closest relationships and showing up in our children in unexpected ways. As the fifteenth-century proverb says, ‘It weven ill not out of the fleshe, that’s bred in the bone.’” —Julie Bruck, Canadian-American poet and Winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Monkey Ranch
“As a fellow Canadian expat, I found reading David Wayne Stewart’s collection of memoir essays to be one of my most enjoyable activities this year. True North, Down South wrestles with many facets of Canadian culture and identity, from his childhood in Quebec’s Eastern Townships to expatriatism in Silicon Valley. In tones ranging from joyful to reflective, Stewart manages to showcase Canada’s many dualities, hilarities, and challenges that distinguish the Canadian people and society from its southern neighbors. In many ways, this book was like looking into a mirror, and reading it has reenergized my own quest for a better understanding of being Canadian. A true gem.” —Christina Keppie, director of the Center of Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University
“An exceedingly intelligent series of recollections related in light, lucid prose.” —Kirkus Reviews
“From coming-of-age experiences to leaving the next generation with the mindset and tools for better understanding Canadian and American connections and disparities, David Wayne Stewart provides far more than a memoir here.” —Midwest Book Review
“David Wayne Stewart’s experiences with and explorations of national identity, especially those personal and professional vignettes situated in the United States, provide a singularly valuable lens into what being Canadian means. This timely collection of entertaining, informative, and heartfelt stories conveys a compelling intimacy so often missing from academic treatments. True North, Down South reverberates with energy and passion for Canada. An absorbing read!” —Christopher Kirkey, director of the Center for the Study of Canada and Institute on Québec Studies at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh and editor of The Construction of Canadian Identity from Abroad
“As a fellow Canadian living in the U.S., I connected so much with many of David Wayne Stewart’s revelations about expat living. This high quality writing with interesting storytelling was engaging and emotion-filled and taught me a lot about the recent history of Canada that occurred before my time or during my childhood.” —Jocelyn Watkinson, children’s book writer and author of The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story
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Average rating from 7 members
As an American with a love for and fascination with Canada, I really enjoyed this book and I think it will be a good read for anyone with even a minor interest in Canada!
Thank you to the author, True North Press and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This memoir has some fascinating aspects, such as the author's childhood as an English speaker in francophone Quebec, and childhood memories of living near an asbestos pit (what a time it was, when asbestos was regarded so positively). The author's immigrant journey, and his search for identity as a Canadian expat living in the USA were a big part of the book, but I have to admit it didn't really grab me. The self-deprecating Canadian niceness of it all was a bit too much for me - but this could certainly be a great book for other Canadian expats.
The memoir, True North, Down South by David Stewart is the story of a Canadian émigré. Subtitled Tales of a Professional Canadian in America, it opens with a road trip to Quebec and an asbestos pit. From such beginnings, an interesting tale of an Anglophobe-Quebecois journey to American-Canadian ex-pat, exploration of identity is the crux of his family life and professional career. Challenged by Quebec separatists as a child and then later as a United States immigrant, the feelings of being an outsider are conveyed in twenty-eight personal stories narrated with charm and self-deprecation. A compelling portrait of immigration, highlighting the contrasting Canadian/American cultures with a four star read rating. With thanks to True North Press and the author, for an uncorrected advanced reader copy for review purposes. As always, the opinions herein are totally my own and freely given.
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