SIMPSON, Jeffrey. Star-Spangled Canadians: Canadians Living the American Dream. Toronto: Harper Collins Ltd., 2000. 391p. Resenha de: NEIDHARDT, W. S. Canadian Social Studies, v.36, n.2, 2002.
Jeffrey Simpson is, of course, not only a widely read and highly regarded political columnist for The Globe and Mail, but also the author of several bestsellers about the Canadian political scene. In his most recent book, entitled Star-Spangled Canadians, he focuses on the experiences of that not insignificant group of Canadians who have left their Canadian homeland in order to pursue their dream in the United States.
Star-Spangled Canadians offers the reader almost 400 pages of text, endnotes, bibliography and index; unfortunately, there are no photos or illustrations. However, between a solid introduction and a thought-provoking conclusion, there are eleven informative chapters filled with lots of interesting information and much careful analysis. In Chapters 1 and 2 respectively entitled History and Differences the author provides his readers with a good historical background to his topic before turning to specific chapters dealing with: Race/Ethnicity; Crime; French Canadians; Brain Drain; Health; Academics; Entrepreneurship/Business; New York; and Entertainment/Journalism.
For anyone who is interested in this particular aspect of the Canadian-American relationship, Simpson has produced a most readable and solidly researched book. In fact, he interviewed nearly 250 expatriates as part of his extensive research. While some of his information is old, much more is new and this makes for some very worth-while reading. Simpson offers what are, perhaps, some rather unexpected conclusions, such as: that the United States is now more of a multi-cultural society while Canada has become more of a melting pot (pp. 89-91); that the image of America as a more violent society than Canada is only partially correct (p. 95); that the exodus of so many Canadians to the United States is more the result of greater opportunities in America than high taxes in Canada (pp. 156 – 157, 169-170, 246 -247); that the Canadian and American medical systems will look somewhat more alike a decade from now and Canadians and Americans will become even more alike too (p. 215); and, that the brain drain is not quite the one way street that many Canadians are led to believe, although there is little doubt that some of the best and the brightest Canadians have left in the past and are still leaving today (pp. 218, 239, 356). In Chapter 9, Simpson offers a detailed explanation of why the American business climate remains such a powerful magnet for many Canadians; and, in Chapter 11, he provides ample evidence that the big leagues in the worlds of entertainment and journalism still remain south of the border.
In Star-Spangled Canadians, Jeffrey Simpson has given us an excellent account of why and how so many Canadians have sought to pursue their dreams within the borders of the American republic; in fact, he estimates that at the end of the 20th century there were at least 660,000 former Canadians living in the United States (p. 7). However, the author also informs his readers that many of these Star-Spangled Canadians have, indeed, returned home over the years. Furthermore, he also tells us that while these expatriates ABC ‘s news-anchor Peter Jennings being one of the best known have made their homes and pursued their careers in the United States, many of them have actually remained Canadian citizens.
In his thoughtful conclusion, Simpson wanders a bit off his main topic and he spends considerable time speculating about Canada’s future relationship with her powerful continental neighbour. His suggestion that the United States will always be the most dominant country for Canada (p. 363) is, of course, hardly news. However, he does offer a keen insight when he shrewdly observes that whatever Canadians may think of their American neighbours, they have never been more like them. And not because Americans have changed to become more like Canadians, but the other way around (p. 343). Near the end of his book, Simpson (who incidentally was born in New York City and came as a nine-year old to Montreal with his parents) suggests to his readers that living beside the United States is both a challenge and an opportunity a challenge to preserve Canadians’ margin of distinctiveness, an opportunity to examine what the Americans are doing and adapt the successful aspects of American society for Canadian purposes (p. 362). This seems to me quite an accurate observation about what the future may be like. I also hope that Simpson will be proven a real visionary when he suggests that there is no reason why Canada cannot succeed. (p. 362).
Star-Spangled Canadians is obviously not a textbook. However, teachers and students alike can benefit greatly by reading this virtual gold mine of information about a hitherto much-neglected area of the Canadian-American relationship. This is the kind of book that deserves to be widely read and hopefully a copy will find its way into most school and public libraries and most certainly onto the shelves of every history department.
W. S. Neidhardt – Northview Heights S.S. Toronto, Ontario.