Author: Gerald A. Archambeau
ISBN: 978-0-9784982-0-7
Publisher: Blue Butterfly Books

You probably never heard of Gerald A. Archambeau, author of A Struggle to Walk with Dignity: The TRUE story of a Jamaican-born Canadian, however, after reading his autobiography, you will have to admit that it certainly requires a great deal of moxie and grit to expose one's life-story. Archambeau's narrative emanates from a voice filled with a great deal of inspiration that unveils to its readers an energizing perspective pertaining to Canadian society and its evolving acceptance of minorities thanks to courageous individuals as himself who were instrumental in creating conditions in which all Canadians can today live in freedom.

This is a book that is not only about Archambeau's personal life but also about times and places that begin with British Colonial Jamaica (now known as Jamaica, West Indies), where Archambeau was born in 1936 of mixed African, French, and British ancestry. His maternal grandfather, Herbert Thomas, who died three years before Gerald's birth, served in the Jamaican Police Constabulary and rose to the rank of inspector of police. His grandfather was first married to an English woman, however, due to her alcohol addiction, he had accompanied her to England where he had left her behind. Upon returning to Jamaica, Herbert had a passionate affair with Archambeau's grandmother resulting in the out -of -wedlock birth of four daughters, Dot, Bet, Kim and Gerald's mother Phyllis.

As the author recounts, his mother “had light brown skin, brown wavy hair, and large green eyes, and because of the attitudes that prevailed at that time, she should have known better than to have a relationship with a black man, who became my father.” Unfortunately, his mother was tossed out of the family home by her sisters for having giving birth to an illegitimate son and, as we are to discover, this was to have an immense lasting effect on Gerald's life and his relationship with his parents and aunts. Ironically, all of his aunts including his mother were illegitimate as they were born well before his grandparents were married.

Archambeau chronicles his early idyllic life in Jamaica describing his experiences with his grandmother and aunts and, as he states, it was peaceful, safe, and happy with many caring hands to attend to his every need. Unfortunately, his father and mother were kept out of his life, although he was permitted to see his mother on some weekends. In 1947 his life was dramatically changed when he was sent to Montreal, Canada to join his mother and stepfather-to-be and it was here during the next several years where he had suffered a great deal of hardship due to his cruel living conditions as well as the rampant racial discrimination that existed at the time. However, throughout the book he emphasizes and illustrates that he never walked around with a chip on his shoulder nor did he foster an inferiority complex. Moreover, he was never able to deal with people based only on their skin color, class or status.

Although, he was eventually thrown out of his mother's house in his early teens, Archambeau's fortitude and determination helped him survive working at odd jobs, educating himself in the unified trades of plumbing, steam fitting and welding and in due time gaining employment with the railways as a porter where he was able to travel across Canada helping him develop a type of microscopic vision of places and individuals that made the country move forward. In addition, moving from French Quebec to Anglo-Ontario exposed him to another perspective of the great Canadian mosaic and, as he mentions when describing people of color, they are not all the same culturally, nor do they see things in the same way on matters of attitude about life.

Archambeau did not entirely divorce himself from his country of birth and at one point in his life he did find himself back in Jamaica working on assignment in the airline industry. It was during the era when Jamaica gained independence and, as he points out, Jamaica's situation was unfolding in a new way where many of their inhabitants felt that independence would solve all of their problems. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.

Archambeau is not timid in using a great deal of ink describing his failed marriages and the personal relationships concerning his aunts and uncles, which at times I felt were overwritten and should have been replaced with more discussion and illustrations concerning his experiences in the work place and the evolving race relationships in Canada. Nonetheless, for the most part, he has an interesting approach to narrating his life experiences as he conveys facts in a way that are not overly emotional or bitter, particularly when describing his early childhood, as well as the racist incidents he endured. And when you put it all together, what you have is an autobiography that succeeds in maintaining your interest as it weaves in and out of different time frames and places.

Click To read Norm's Interview With Gerald A. Archambeau

Author's Bio: 

Practicing law for over 35 years enabled me to transfer and apply to book reviewing my many skills that I had perfected during my career in the legal profession and as a result I have become a prolific free lance book reviewer & author interviewer.

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