Wee Girls

Lizz Murphy, Editor
Lizz Murphy, Editor Spinifex Press $14.95 (373p) ISBN 978-1-875559-51-0
Reviewed on: 11/25/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
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The burden of being Irish and a woman is explored in this collection of essays, short stories and poetry by women writers from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada. The selections range from Helena Mulkerns's striking short story ""Famine Fever,"" which depicts the hallucinations of a woman dying during the Great Famine, to Robyn Rowland's ""Searching,"" a moving poem about a woman returning to the homeland of her ancestors, and Ailbhe Smyth's ""Girl Beaming in a White Dress,"" a rueful meditation on fitting into the mold of ""a dotey wee girl."" Many of the contributions are memoirs of growing up, of Catholic school, of struggling parents, and these are some of the most powerful, telling pieces. As Eavan Boland writes of the possessions of ""The Emigrant Irish"": ""Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering/ in the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World./ And all the old songs. And nothing to lose."" A few of the selections, such as Mary Dorcey's vapid lesbian love poem, ""I Saw a Fish This Morning,"" seem a bit too general for this topical collection. While there is no grand summing up of what it means to be female and Irish, these women's individual voices have a powerful cumulative impact. As Sue Reidy writes in ""Being Irish"": ""The message was clear. To be Irish was to be special."" (Mar.)
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