1949 - Truthfully Yours by Angeline Hango

“When drunk, papa often struck maman . . . And he would swear and push furniture around, and want to fight everybody,” Angéline Hango tells us in the opening pages of her Leacock Medal winner, Truthfully Yours.


            In her book, a memoir, Hango describes the childhood embarrassments, hurts, and instability flowing from her father’s alcoholism and her mother’s struggle to cope in small-town Quebec.
Except from: What’s So Funny? Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal for Humour Writing 
           
 I started this chapter of my book with this extract from the Medal winner because I think it highlights the issues of social context and personal intent that flow through all works of art, but particularly those inhabiting the subjective realm of humour.   Hango did not think her book was particularly funny when she wrote it in 1948 and was surprised to receive a humour award for it. She wrote it to clear her conscience, and though Angéline Hango lived to the age of ninety, she never wrote anything for publication after the Leacock Medal.


          The “Truthfully” in the book’s title refers to Hango’s pledge to break from her lifelong habit of “fibbing” about her family, a practice she refines in school, social settings, and eventually the workplace.

Some commentators suggest that 1940s readers found their amusement in material that is “a touch politically incorrect by today’s standards,” this being the 1940s stereotype of alcoholic, illiterate, and superstitious backwoods French Canadians, and, more generally, the seemingly comic presentation of an abusive circumstance.

          For this distortion, the publisher, Oxford University Press, bears some responsibility. It sprinkled cheery cartoons throughout the book and branded the story as a “riotous” and “revealing” picture of “life in rural French Canada”.
           Still, Hango meets the humorist’s test of telling the truth with affection and can still make readers laugh – and maybe forgive.




                          -----
.