Nathalie: An Acadian’s Tale of Tragedy and Triumph

An Acadian’s Tale of Tragedy and Triumph

by Debra Amirault Camelin
Ronsdale Press, 2023
ISBN 978-1-55380-671-4 (sc)
$23.95, 362 pp, ages 12+

Debra Amirault Camelin is an Acadian author who has used family and regional history to fashion a gripping fictional account of the deportations from Nova Scotia that began in 1755. Her ancestor, Nathalie Belliveau, was forced to travel to the 13 Colonies and did not return until 1766. The book chronicles her adventures as a fugitive hiding amongst Mi’kmaw people, an indentured servant to a wealthy slave-owning family in North Carolina, and a member of a poverty-stricken Acadian refugee colony in New England. Over that period the sheltered 13-year-old protagonist best known for telling fancy yarns, turns into a strong-willed mature woman who eventually marries a man she was separated from for more than a decade. Acadian food, clothing, religion, courting practices, geography, and language are all important to this work, and Camelin has fashioned a fine piece of historical fiction based on secondary sources, as well as genealogical research and Indigenous oral traditions.

Classroom Connections: The softcover edition (Nathalie is also available in ebook and PDF versions) features several maps, genealogical charts, an author’s note, and a discussion of the historical versus fictionalized aspects of the book. The Ronsdale website has a link to a YouTube video in which the author reads a short passage and answers questions on the origins of the expulsions and the role of historical fiction. Camelin observes that younger Canadians are often woefully unaware of this part of our history, and she emphasizes that the story is focused on regional conflicts and the rights of refugees, which are also two contemporary international concerns. Although apparently aimed at readers as young as twelve, the lengthy and frank (but in no way explicit) discussions about premarital sex and dating customs probably mean this “young adult work” would best be used in a high school setting.

Review by George Sheppard.

This review is featured in Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Fall 2023 issue.

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