Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Salon Feb 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon.comAs February comes to a close and we enter March, I am looking forward to some (hopefully) warmer weather and the approach of Spring.

With Spring comes St. Patrick's Day - this is a holiday about which I have mixed feelings. My parents both immigrated to the US in their early 20's - my Dad from Scotland and my Mom from Ireland. My brother and I grew up with a strong sense of our heritage as my parents tried to find that balance between assimilating to their new country, the country of our births and preserving customs and traditions from their homelands.

My Mom left behind her entire family in County Mayo and she made a concerted effort to bring us back to visit them every year so that the connection wouldn't be broken - I have many fond memories of summers spent in Ireland enjoying the new found freedom afforded by the open fields that surrounded my grandparents' home. I know it was difficult to save every year to go "home" and I will always be grateful to my parents for making that sacrifice -the opportunity to know my family in Ireland and to travel the country is priceless and it has cemented my connection to my heritage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage?
St. Patrick's Day in the United States - the celebration is marked by green beer, leprechauns and "wearing of the green". Somehow, none of that reconciles with what I know of my Irish heritage and it seems to make a mockery of the rich culture of the Irish. Growing up, my Grandmother would send my brother and I authentic St. Patrick's Day "badges" with live shamrock which my Mom would proudly pin to our school uniforms. There were no special meals or other traditions partly because the holiday has generally (until recent years) been celebrated as a religious holiday in Ireland and partly because the touchstones of our Irish heritage - the food, the music, etc were really already incorporated into our daily lives so there was no need to do anything differently on March 17th. In this National Geographic article, another daughter of an expat Irish family recalls a similar experience - badges with shamrocks and all!

At the same time, however, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day so raucously in the US thanks to the long history of Irish immigrants who have made this country their home. The experience of maintaining connections to your roots and pride in your heritage - no matter how many generations back - while still pledging allegiance to this country is a uniquely American experience. I am happy to be in a country where these connections are celebrated and enjoy watching everyone being "Irish for a Day" - I realize now that it doesn't diminish my heritage at all but rather adds to the richness of it.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day - My Way
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, I will feature reviews of books set in Ireland and/or by Irish authors over the next three weeks in the lead up to March 17th. Ireland has a deep literary history spanning from W.B. Yeats and James Joyce to contemporary favorites such as Anne Enright, Colm Toibin and Maeve Binchy. I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorites with you and also reading some new books/authors. I am participating in the Ireland Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Books and Movies (head over there -you can still sign up) and plan to get some reading done for the challenge in these 3 weeks.

What are your favorite Irish books or authors? Leave a comment and let me know and feel free to link to any reviews!

Slainte (Good Luck)!


  1. How great that you got to go to Ireland so often! It's on my list of places I'd like to visit.

    I really liked The Book of Lost Things by Irish author John Connolly.

    Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series has a touch of magic, but is set in Ireland. I loved those books.

  2. I don't have any favourite irish authors or books so i will enjoy reading you reviews

  3. Ah! There are so many wonderful Irish books/author. I really enjoyed Forever (Pete Hamill) about an Irish-American in NYC. The Secret Scripture (Sebastian Barry) was also fantastic. And I love Joyce's Dubliners (although I admit shamefully that I haven't read any other Joyce). I'm hoping to read At Swim Two Birds (Flann O'Brien) this year for St Patrick's Day... phew, ok, that was a lot. I love the Irish!

  4. I was lucky enough to visit Ireland once quite a few years ago and it is such an interesting country. I think it is great that you were able to maintain a connection with your Irish relatives ... though I will agree that sometimes St. Patrick's Day is just used as an excuse to drink to excess by some people.

  5. Wonderful post, I have had the pleasure of having traveled to Ireland twice in the last 10 years. I totally enjoyed the time that I spent in such a beautiful country. I am Irish/Scots actually. I love St.Patrick's Day but I have the pleasure of being Irish !! I just read and reviewed The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey. Wonderful story. Oh yes, I also have a geveaway of 3 copies of The Yellow House here at:

    Thank you

  6. Thank you for the link to the National Geographic article - will go back and read it later. Colm Toibin and John Banville are two of my favorite Irish writers. I have a book by John McGahern in my tbr pile that would be good to read this month...

  7. Interesting post :) I didn't know Maeve Binchy was Irish. Just today I ordered two books by Irish authors--Edna O'Brien and Colm Toibin (the paperback of Brooklyn, which releases tomorrow).

    Since visiting Dublin last June, my interest in Irish writers is definitely sparked. Plus, I've learning about my mother's family, which was from Cashel, but immigrated to England in the 1840s.

  8. How great that you were able to visit Ireland when you were younger and grew up feeling connected to that part of your heritage! It sounds like it had a big impact on you.

    I only recently went to Ireland and it was fantastic. My mother's side is from County Cork, and I didn't make it there, does give me a reason to visit again though! :)

    Before I went on my trip, I made it a point to read some works by Irish authors. One of my favorites was Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, by Roddy Doyle. It's unexpectedly really moving. I liked The Gathering by Anne Enright, though Goodreads opinion seems to disagree with me. And I also am a big Maeve Binchy fan (and I've got a review of Tara Road here if you're curious)! Happy reading...