Irish America: Coming Into Clover

Maureen Dezell, Author
Maureen Dezell, Author Doubleday Books $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-49595-0
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-385-49596-7
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Those who harbor the desire to burn their auntie's lace curtains, secretly loathe Riverdance or relish the newfound clout of all things Irish will appreciate this unflinching look at the 20 million or so Irish Catholics in the U.S. Beginning with the potato famine of the 1840s and exploring the repercussions of the Irish Catholic diaspora in America, Boston Globe staff writer Dezell concludes that Irish Americans flourish on contradictions. She first examines the phenomenon of ""Eiresatz: a sentimental slur of imagined memories, fine feeling, and faux Irish talismans and traditions"" that includes everything from the stock Irishman of the stage (""Sambo with a shillelagh"") and the beer companies' preoccupation with drunken Irishmen to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an all-male society that bans gays and lesbians from the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City. Dezell voices contempt for the Father O'Malleys and Flanagans of Hollywood, admiringly recounts the adventures of the San Patricios--the Irish battalion that deserted the American army during the Mexican War to fight on the side of Mexican Catholics--and examines what she casts as the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. She observes the evolution of the American Irish into ""CWASPs""--""Catholic--or Celtic--White Anglo-Saxon Protestants""--and traces Irish feminism from the IRA's women's auxiliary, Cumann na mBam, to Mother Jones, Margaret Sanger and Dorothy Day. Dezell also investigates the prevalence of alcoholism among the Irish, and their often combative relationship with African-Americans. Astutely deconstructing images and experiences of the Irish in this country, Dezell will have readers shaking their heads in dismay one moment and laughing uncontrollably the next. Agent, John Taylor Williams. (Feb.)
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