Book Review: A Quebec Jew

“I, Richard Marceau, 11th generation Quebecker, long-time agnostic, son of a practicing Catholic family, educated by priests in Quebec City, firmly rooted sovereignist, Bloc Québécois MP, was preparing, in good conscience and after deliberate consideration, to become a Jew.” 

I just finished reading A Quebec Jew: From Bloc Québécois MP to Jewish Activist by Richard Marceau, which I found to be an enjoyable and engaging read. 

Marceau tells his eventful life story of growing up in Québec, altar serving at the funeral Mass of René Lévesque, marrying an anglophone secular Jew from Toronto, becoming active in sovereignist politics from a young age and getting elected as a Bloc MP at age 26, spending nine years in federal politics, undergoing an intellectually serious conversion to Judaism during his professional career, and all throughout developing a conviction in the similarities between Québec nationalism and Zionism.

I found the last point especially interesting and, within the context of his overall story, quite compelling. To show the precedent for these comparisons, he cited his political hero, René Lévesque, on several occasions: “What the Parti Québécois is trying to do in Québec resembles what Zionism meant for the creation of the State of Israel […] Just like you have your own Jewish identity, we have our own Québec identity and we are going to make it true.”

It was fun to read about Canadian events, politicians, and institutions throughout his book. He gave a good window into the Bloc Québécois during the years he was in office and also provided a good survey of the climate of Canadian politics concerning Israel.

It’s rare for a book about a Canadian to be interesting. A Quebec Jew struck me as quintessentially Canadian, and is thus a little gem.

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