The Irish in America


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Books, Books, Books

Some time ago, my dad dropped off a couple of boxes of “Irish books.” He was going through his library – refining his collection – and I told him I’d like to take a look at his cast-offs.

There is a good mix of books: novels, history, golf, biography, music, travel, and poetry. The two boxes would make a great “starter library” for someone interested in Irish and Irish American Studies.

When I started going through the books, I tried to not be offended when I came across books I had given Dad as gifts. They just didn’t make the cut, I guess. When I got to the bottom of the first box, hidden beneath several Morgan Llewelyn paperbacks and Great Golf Courses of Ireland, I couldn’t believe what I saw. How could Dad let go of this gem?!?

This book is just supposed to be on Dad’s bookshelf, I can picture it there, right alongside Alive! by Read, The Poetry of Robert Frost, and What Color is My Parachute? (Honestly, Dad had them arranged better than that, but images of those books are cemented in my memory.) Trinity by Leon Uris was hands down the most widely read book at our South Minneapolis home during the last quarterof the twentieth century. It made the rounds. One look at the state of the book will tell you how much we loved it.

For anyone who has not read Trinity, it is a sweeping tale covering the history of Ireland from Famine to 1916. Uris masterfully weaves the lives of rich, engaging, and complex characters into actual historic events. It is not just Catholic vs. Protestant, or even Irish vs. English, it is about the people who make history. The story draws you in and is so good that you really feel like you come away with an understanding (or at least a beginning of an understanding) of Irish history eventhough it also feels like pure entertainment.

Trinity was my literary introduction to the history of Ireland. It’s been awhile, but I think it is time to read it again. I was twelve and in my early U2-obsessed phase when I first read it. I revisited it often in high school and read it again in my twenties. I guess I’d say it was part of my youth. Time for a more mature perspective.

Read along with me, if you would like! I am going to see if any of the McCormacks want to join in reading as well. But they will have to get their own copies. This one is mine.

Leave a comment and let me know if you will be joining me in reading Leon Uris’ Trinity, or let me know about a book that made its way around your family when you were growing up.

Pick up a used copy of Trinity on eBay or Abe Books or ThriftBooks. Happy reading!


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Day Eight of Irish American Favorites: Family Photo

First Communion of Margaret McCormack - 1951

I know, I know…you’ve seen this photograph before. It’s right up there on the top of the website, and I have used it on my business cards and other materials. I think it is a great photo – maybe even the quintessential Irish-America family photograph.

Andy&Mary; Mike&Katie

Andy&Mary; Mike&Katie

Three generations of McCormacks gathered (with in-laws) to celebrate the 1951 First Communion of my Aunt Maggie – Margaret Mary McCormack. The “old guys” are in the back row – my great-grandfather Andy McCormack in the classic trench coat and his brother Mike, standing a couple of people over on Andy’s right. The brothers immigrated to the United States from Ballyedmond, County Laois in the latter part of the 1800s.

Can you spot the native Irish speaker in the photo? That would be Mike’s wife, standing behind Maggie. Katie Hannon hailed from Gorumna Island, Connemara, Galway. Mike and Andy married sisters, but Andy’s wife, Mary, passed away years before this photo was taken.

My Aunt Eeny is with her Auntie Nellie (seated in front of Andy), while my dad is kneeling in the corner, looking exactly like I always imagined he would in the 1950s, in jeans and a striped t-shirt. My Grandma Agnes sits next to Maggie, pregnant with my Aunt Mary. My Grandpa Bill is on the far left, with his hand on his niece Martha’s shoulder.

Aunts, uncles, and cousins round out the group. It is incredible to see these people together, looking so happy and healthy.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of the people in this photo surface later this month as favorites all on their own.


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Day Four of Irish American Favorites: Maryn

Newborn Maryn

Newborn Maryn

Today is a special day. My niece, and the first member of the fourth-generation of our branch of the Andy McCormacks in America, turns six-years-old today. The world came to a halt for us on June 4, 2007 when Maryn Eileen McCormack joined the family. We all had new roles – Father, Grandpa, Grandma, Great-Aunt, and Aunts, and immediately Maryn became the sun in our solar system.

Maryn at age one

Maryn at age one

Maryn has always been really cool. She’s never let all the attention and adoration go to her head. Before Maryn started talking, you could just tell she was taking it all in and figuring things out.

2011

2011

Maryn is smart, generous, loving, and inquisitive. She has a mind like a steel trap and an awesome imagination. The storylines of our games of Princess continue from week to week, as the plot develops and characters evolve. Sometimes her younger sister Ainsley and I try to freelance with events in our land of make-believe, but Maryn is always on us to get us back on track and keep to the story.

2009

2009

Maryn is one of my two favorite Irish Americans born in the twenty-first century. It has been a privilege to share the last six years with her and I love to experience her energy and enthusiasm for life. It is amazing to see her grow up, but in this Auntie’s opinion, I wouldn’t mind if she slowed down just a little bit!

Maryn_Christmas_2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARYN!!!!!