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Irish America: Coming Into Clover Hardcover – February 13, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495950
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,227,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Normally I regard sociological studies as palatable as a tongue depressor. However, this is rivetting, readable, and entertaining. Clearly my interest was piqued because it explores in comprehensive detail my ethnic group. The American Irish (or Irish Americans) will find this a very compelling and satisfying read.
The book studies the Irish diaspora in the various areas of this vast country and points out how the different locations and parallel immigrations resulted in American Irish of significantly varying success, acclimation, and temperment (e.g.: San Francisco v. Chicago v. NY v. Boston). However, regardless of their differing opportunities Denzell notes the seemingly subtle but enduring culture and driving forces which endure among the American Irish -- such as a reluctance to feel secure with material success, gregariousness, and restrained demonstration of emotion. What is perhaps most interesting is that Denzell points out how most Americans, and even the American Irish, are unaware of any specifically Irish American cultural patterns,though they are pervasive and inescapable, if seemingly oblique.
Reading this book I came to understand the motivations for my own behavior much better. Heretofore I thought they were simply the quirks of my own family; reading Denzell one is struck by the strength of these historic roots. While the book describes us, warts and all, it leaves the American Irish reader with a satisfying sense of comfort and pride (not that we'd ever publicly admit it).
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful addition to understanding the Irish-American culture. Charles Morris' book on the American Catholic Church pointed to the influence of the Irish in the design and structure of the Church in the United States. Ms. Dezell, however, goes futher in exploring the culture of the community, separate from its religious identity --- although, as she notes, separating the two is all but impossible. Like most books written by journalists, the writing is effortless and a pleasure to read. In fact, I read through the entire book over the St. Patrick's Day weekend, which was rather appropriate. Having been raised in an Irish-American family, I kept finding myself amazed at the personal characteristics I have that, in all liklihood, are the product of the culture --- and not traits I have developed independently. And they are not the typical stereotypical Irish traits --- drinking, gift of the gab (although that one is pretty close); rather they are characteristics that you would not necessarily contribute to a cultural upbring. For example, the view of money in the culture --- as being simply a means to an end, the humility of the people and, my personal favorite, the continued belief that everything could all go wrong so quickly. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the role that being Irish plays in your development and philosophy, and also for anyone interested in understanding the uniqueness of the Irish American culture.
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By A Customer on March 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Author Maureen Dezell has presented to her readers a comprehensive and insightful description of the Irish American experience in different geographic locations of the US, drawing on the universality of certain Irish cultural similarities and recounting the vast differences that also occur. It was fascinating to note the hard-line Boston Irish experience compared to the less difficult assimilation in New York and other cities such as Chicago and San Francisco. As a first generation Irish American, I find myself so delighted that Ms.Denzell has taken "Pen to paper" to underscore so many Irish American issues. On the one hand you have that dark Irish pride that denied the great famine and depicted Ireland as this mythical land of green and glory, captured in song as "A little bit of heaven". The other side is the tough immigration of thousands of Irish poor with no homes nor jobs, who had to endure incredible hardships in their new homeland. Issues of the Church and or course, the "curse of the drink" are addressed with a new and refreshing tone that leads one to understand that ethnic identity, although important, needs to be viewed in the context of a bigger world order.
And the best is Maureen Dezell's depiction of women in this book...Read to find out!
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By A Customer on September 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A lot of the reviewers here have remarked how surprised they were to see themselves and their families in Maureen Dezell's synoptic view of Irish culture in "America" (including Canada?). I have to join these reviewers in saying what a revelation this book was to me. There is Irish blood on both sides of my family and I am also somewhat active in the local Irish-American community, so I see a lot of the type of behavior that she describes, particularly the cheerful bleakness in outlook ("It could all go wrong tomorrow, but we'll be all right ... probably.") and the careful "chopping down of the tall wheat" (as I am told the Australians say).
When I was growing up we thought of the Italians members of the extended family as having discernible "culture" and it was tacitly assumed that the Irish relatives were just "normal Americans"; Ms. Dezell points out that this is the general condition in Irish America. It is not so much that the Irish are ashamed of their heritage (although sometimes they are), but more that they don't see any reason to make a big deal about it most of the time, so each generation takes more and more of the family character for granted. The Irish have a tendency to stick together in neighborhoods and in social organizations, and I can testify to the fact that they seem to unconsciously gravitate toward one another in a crowd, drawn together by their shared suspicion about putting on airs or taking an occasion too seriously. These reasons, and their enormous numbers, enable them to forget that they are in fact a distinct ethnic group.
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