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Born in Montreal, Canada, Anne-Marie Sicotte wrote a dozen books – biographies, art and photography essays, novels – in which she celebrates many aspects of Quebec’s past. Her most famous achievement is the historical fiction Les Accoucheuses (Guardians of Birth). You will find information about her and and this trilogy at:To join her, please go to Écrivez-moi in the top menu
My grown-up daughter, Sarah, recently wrote the text that follows. She’s a fan of my historical novels, and she chooses, for a school work in English learning, to explain the nature of her interest. I think it is a really good introduction to my work, and I submit it to you. I hope you will excuse the mistakes and the clumsy turns of phrase.
Making history alive again
Our society is full of people trying to change the way we live, the way we think, or only trying to change something. Something that touches them, upset them, or simply something that needs to be modified for our own good. Some of these modern heroes do conferences, create songs, travel in third world countries and act in a concrete manner to help people in need. Our voice has incredible capacities to raise and gather a population. Our words can reveal secrets and give confidence.
Amongst all of consciousness-raisers, Anne-Marie Sicotte uses her writing to show unknown parts of Quebec’s history and to bring these events into every house by putting them in novels. Indeed, she believes that to teach people about the past, you need to touch them first and to bring them INTO the period. When you are able to feel it and when you identify yourself to the characters, you’re going to learn a lot more about the period than by knowing dates and timelines by heart.
Her last book, called Le Pays Insoumis, talks about the Patriots in Quebec in 19th century. She chooses that subject because she was convinced that this period had not been dug deep enough, and that there was still a lot of hidden information about that time. She wanted to democratize that part of our history, but not by writing it in a simplistic way. Each little detail was needed to create a big panorama of the rebellions, which took more than two years of researches. “I begin to be sure that all historians have knowingly avoided digging the period not to exhume vipers that could have bitten them. It’s a bit scary, finally, that general silence of generations of historians before me”, she says.
When not writing novels, the author also likes to participate in a webzine called www.tolerance.ca. This magazine allows her to write about almost every subject she wants to. This spring, while was happening the student’s strike in Quebec, she wrote an article that really hit me. It was about some people that were exaggerating the facts, and saying that us, students of Quebec, encouraged sedition and hate in the province. That, in other words, we were only trouble makers and that we were complaining for nothing.
That speech, repeated again and again, made her realize that the situation in 2012 was not that different from the one she was researching (1820s). At that time, Quebec’s governor, Earl Dalhousie, reigned like he was the king of the province, by making unfair laws and discriminating French-Canadians. Each time that they wanted to change that situation by writing petitions, asking for better conditions or electing their own candidates at Parliament, they got accused of sedition and revolutionary acts. The Patriots were not even mentioning a coup d’état or anything like that: they only wanted to change the way things were done in Lower Canada, because, after all, they were the majority and they deserved to rule in their own country.
Two hundred years later, the actors have changed but the conflict is curiously alike. A government (this time elected but still…) wants to rule a population without its approval. It’s the people that have to rule a country, and democracy is much more than only voting each four years… But, even if the students were not menacing at all, at the beginning, Prime Minister Jean Charest used repression at the first occasion he got.
This is a perfect example of how history can repeat itself again and again. Anne-Marie Sicotte writes a lot of these chronicles and, a lot of times, they contain links between our time and the Patriots’ rebellions. History is, for her, an exact reflection of certain events that are taking place in modern world. “I realize that fear is making a lot of powerful men lose their head. I saw that often, in Quebec of old times…” she writes in the same chronicle.
The parallel between the two periods is accurate and really efficient. Why do we let the same things happen without ending them? My mother’s books and chronicles have that purpose: making history alive again. With their charming characters, beautiful historic descriptions and breathtaking events, you have no choice but to get into the story. And after, you realize that these people are not that far away from us and that we should definitely learn from them. Anne-Marie Sicotte is one of those who don’t want to write books only to entertain. Like in her chronicles, she wants to give a message to the world… but by using her own, personal way.