Celebrating Irish heritage through books—March 11, 2011
When I was young my grandmother took a trip to Ireland. I awaited her return and the gift of a leprechaun that she promised to bring back to me. I remember being disappointed by the porcelain figurine that she brought from Ireland. This was an important trip for my grandmother because even though she was born in America, both of her parents emigrated from Ireland and she was very proud of her Irish heritage.
As a child that’s what I associated with Ireland: leprechauns, pots of gold and getting pinched if you didn’t wear green on St Patrick’s Day. I didn’t know a lot about the land, the people, or their history. I have enjoyed learning about a small part of Ireland’s history through the words of an award-winning writer, Frank McCourt.
McCourt received the Pulitzer Prize for his memoir “Angela's Ashes”. The memoir follows his life from birth till the age of 19 when he moved back to the United States. Frank was born in 1930 to Irish immigrants in New York City. A brother, twin brothers, and a sister soon followed as the young family struggled to make ends meet. Frank‘s baby sister died within a few weeks of being born. In 1934, unable to find work during the Depression, the family moved back to Ireland, where they descended deeper into poverty.
As I was reading his memoir it became clear to me that life wasn’t going to get any easier for the McCourt family and that they would continue to struggle. As a mother, it was definitely a hard read. The family dealt with young children dying, living in squalor, hunger, alcoholism, depression and disease. So why would this be one of my favorite books and why recommend it? I guess because it is eloquently written and is such an inspiring story. It is inspiring because of what Mr. McCourt accomplished in his lifetime despite his disadvantages.
After finishing Angela’s Ashes I was hooked, I wanted to read more. I read Frank McCourt’s other books, “Tis” and “Teacher Man”. I also read books written by his brother, Malachy McCourt, “Monk Swimming” and “Singing Him My Song”.
My grandmother passed away quite a few years ago and Frank McCourt died in 2009. Now on St Patrick’s Day, I sometimes forgot to wear green, but I do know a small part of Ireland’s history through the words of an Irish Author.