From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
While a sharper title for her book might have been "Catholicism in Irish Americans," Dezell (Boston Globe) has interviewed a variety of Irish Americans to document cultural changes. She is reporting, and since Irish American behavior varies, the report wanders. Dezell notes that adherence to Catholicism is waning, but its virtues, notably charity, remain. Irish Americans seek upward mobility while struggling with a streak of modesty that the author sees as uniquely Irish. Finally, those generations most removed from Ireland are now seeking out faux Irish culture, "multiculti fuzziness" like Riverdance and the music of Enya. Thus, behavior is perpetuated even if its origin is forgotten. Reading like a collection of columns, Dezell's narrative employs hooks and melodrama that entertain the reader but undermine her authority. Ultimately, though, the book is entertaining and at times insightful, making it a viable choice for public libraries in Irish American enclaves. Robert Moore, Southboro, MA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.