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Showing 1-10 of 90 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 120 reviews
on July 10, 2016
This reader did not particularly like the writing style of this book. The facts are all there. There is no dispute with the historical accuracy or wellspring of information presented.
I found the writing disjointed. One topic and its important personages would be followed to a certain point in time. Then the author would suddenly shift you back a few hundred years to change topics. Many of the same players would emerge again but different ones added. It was tough to get a sense of continuity throughout the book. You didn't get any sense of interplay or continuum as time and personages moved forward.
Events tied to topic, not time. Let's talk about religion for awhile. Now let's go back and talk about politics for awhile. Now let's shift and talk about economics for awhile..... It was difficult to pull it all together.
I would hesitate to recommend this book. It IS a factual gathering of the Irish and their influence on American culture. It may not be the best one out there though. I have no other to compare it to. It was thus only mildly enjoyable for this reader.
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on December 29, 2014
I'm listening to the Audible edition of this book, and I keep thinking that it's being read by a computer-generated voice. The narrator seems to have a native (generic) American accent and attempts English and Irish accents when quoting characters of those nationalities. That aspect is less distracting than it could be. However, the narrator (I hesitate to use the pronoun "he" because I suspect the narrator is an "it") mispronounces words at an alarming rate. I am hardly an expert on Irish pronunciation, but I know that the town Cobh is pronounced "cove" and not "cahv." The many other pronunciation errors, combined with the machine-like inflection of the voice, make the book itself seem less credible.
The actual content is interesting, but I have two issues:
1. As others have mentioned, the information is often redundant, as though each chapter is meant to be read independently.
2. The author shows bias in several places. The slant, however, seems to go both ways of the historic British/Irish divide. I was startled to hear toward the beginning of the book that Irish emigrated to Barbados in the 1600s, seemingly by choice, even on a whim. The author implies no sense of the forced deportation of Irish by Cromwell and his forces. Yet later in the book, the author seems to glow with Irish nationalism and distaste for the English. Perhaps he is going for a sense of balance, but to me it comes off as simply two extremes of opinion.
I will finish the book, mostly to find areas of history and culture I will want to research further. However, I will not use this book as a reliable source of factual information.
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on May 3, 2014
Clark Williams
This is a well researched book which taps into a broad subject, developed over a long time span. I believe the author did a good job in having a balanced point of view, and discussed the positive and negative with equitable fairness to all parties involved. Because this book discussed a number of different eras, and this was not a lengthy book, certain subject areas were not discussed in the depth that could have been. However, the author did an excellent job of encapsulating epochs within the limitations of the space of the different chapters, each of which could have been a book, or several, in its own right.
Being the product of Catholic schools of the 1960s, on visiting relations in Ireland (thrice) I am struck by the Catholic culture which was so much a part of our lives in those days. There is a genorosity of spirit there which survivives to this day, something I've not encountered in most places travelled in the US. The author did a good job discussing the evolving role of the Catholic church.
All in all, a good read. To become a great read, we would need something nearly encyclopedic.
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on September 18, 2012
This book is one that will resonate with so many Americans. Like most Americans I am something of a "Heinz 59" and Irish is definitely in the mix. I think a lot of people can identify with that. Having Irish in one's background is something to be proud of and when you read Dolan's book you will understand why. The immigrants from Ireland have not had an easy ride in American history. In fact, they have not an easy ride before migration to North America. The deprivations faced by this people group required a lot of intestinal fortitude. When the challenge arose the Irish were able to overcome the odds and etch out a place in our nation's story. Jay Dolan brings the social history of the Irish in America to life. Here are a few of the positive and negative aspect to his book.

Mr. Dolan put a lot of time and effort into this work. He packs every page with excellent information and some of the anecdotes are nice additions to the main story-line. I am a historian and there was a lot of things he filled in about Irish history that I was unaware of. He really put the migration of the Irish to America in a good context. After the Irish arrived they had to work jobs that were less than desirable because that's all they could get. They proved to be industrious and willing to do what needed to be done. This tough, hard-working, ambitious nature made the Irish valuable to our history. They came here with the express purpose of succeeding and so often they did. The Irish, although white, had to deal with racism in the United Kingdom and here as well. Of course, the Irish had their own racist sentiments to deal with as well. The relationship between the Irish and the African American community demonstrates that even victims can become perpetrators. As they integrated in American life they became more accepted, yet integration did not mean extinction for their culture and identity.

His explanation of Irish culture highlights how extremely loyal they are to their families and communities. When placed inside the political setting it proved to be interesting although often corrupt. Nepotism, patronage and downright bribery were some of the factors that ran the machine. I remember reading about Tammany Hall and also about the Daley machine in Chicago in one of my political science classes. He talks about the corruption of these two in this book. He is fair however, and focuses on some positive political forces as well. There were many in the Irish political machinery that wanted to reform and clean up some of the corruption. I was especially interested in the things he had to say about President Kennedy's grandfather John Fitzgerald as they shed light on President Kennedy as well. His assessment of the importance of the Catholic church in the Irish community was very enlightening although I knew some about it already. The church often helped reform while at other times it exercised domination over the life of the community. I thought that he was unbiased in his representation of the Catholic church neither shying away from criticism or pandering to it. Not only would this book be beneficial to a religious group but the book would also be helpful in the study of labor movements. The Irish don't mind standing up for their rights and at the heart of these reforms in labor stand the Irish pushing and pulling the cart of progress forward.

The few negative things I have to say are slightly petty. Parts of the book were boring. The chapters were long and sometimes hard to get through. I like to read a chapter a day, and I would rather have 25 shorter chapters than 13 really long ones, but that is just a personal preference. I wish he would have interacted with more primary source documents and it would have been nice if he had included pictures. I realize why he didn't in that it is a big printing cost. Nevertheless, it would have added a nice dimension to the book. I wish he would have spent more time talking about the Scotch Irish. He does talk briefly about them but he never really discussed the role of their churches on the Irish community. I also wished he would have spent more time talking about rural Irish communities like the one that Andrew Jackson was born in. He can be repetitive at times and his organization is little hard to follow. I think however, that it is possible that this is just a personal issue. He is linear but he jumps around sometimes and that makes it harder for me to follow.

Despite these minor issues I can say this would be a great addition to your library. If you are a teacher, a history buff or just an Irish American looking to learn more than this book is excellent. The language of the book is accessible and there is a wealth of information that you can mine here. It is a great starting place for your study but it is not restricted to just "starters." It's chic to be Irish as Dolan says. He says that when most people are asked about their ethnicity it is Irish that they will usually claim. I think it is because the people are scrapers and they often strive hard to get ahead in life. There is a passionate nature in Ireland that I think that resonates with many people. Plus, in a way the Irish are the classic underdog. When they come to America they are often not wanted and their religion frightens many Anglo-Americans. However, a little over a century later they have one of their own in the White House. They are a people with faults but they have made a unique impression on American life.
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on May 2, 2014
I am an "Irish American" whose grandparents who immigrated to Philadelphia from Ireland in the 1880s. I grew up in Philadelphia, schooled by the nuns and to this day I realize it was a great education. I so relate to staying in one's neighborhood where everything was available.

It was very interesting to read about the early times of immigration. Each chapter was a wonderful learning experience especially the politics of the big cities. Mr. Dolan presented the facts with some humor at times, so it wasn't a dry history book. I was sorry when I was finished with the book. Great read!
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on March 2, 2014
A well-written, clear and balanced exposition of the American Evolution and the role of Irish Americans in it. The book contains many facts not well-known nor discussed in American history texts. It is a sociological study of America and the American psyche of the times, not only of the Irish, and provides an excellent perspective. It is punctuated with anecdotes of famous and not so famous (and even the infamous, but still lovable?) Irish. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, but especially any Irish American wishing to know more about his or her antecedents. My one regret is that some areas and events could have been discussed further and in greater depth, but that may be a good reason to write and to read, I hope, Mr. Dolan's next work
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on July 26, 2014
a chronological commentary of the Irish in America. Amazingly not boring. Highlights of not only individuals but events of each period of time. Extrapolating -- the same issues probably affected all other ethnic groups -- most of whom did not have English as first language.

Yes -- I would read it again. I choose to read it a chapter at a time. Each chapter was self contained -- no need to remember detailed family trees.

Dolan emphasized that one of the attributes contributing to their success was their ability to speak English!!!

I had not realized that Ghandi's passivity was used by the Irish to attain "independence" from the UK.
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on July 7, 2013
My parents and all aunts and uncles were born in Donegal, Ireland. I have heard so many stories about their beloved land, but this really informed me about the Irish people. My God, what they have suffered over the years is just unbelievable. The difference in the Irish and another race is that no matter what they have suffered in the past, they picked themselves up and made something of their lives. They may cry and lament the years gone by, but they don't expect special treatment now. They are a proud people and I, for one, am very proud to call myself a "American-Irish"!!!

This books if well written and an easy and enjoyable read. I hightly recommend it.
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on November 17, 2013
Excellent! A great history lesson. This book was on my mom's bookshelf and I decided to take it home with me and read. I'm not much of a reader but this book held my interest. My mom is 100% Irish and I am 50%, oh and of course Catholic. I, my mom, her mom, her father were all born and raised in NYC. I am 4th generation Irish American.

I learned so much from this book. I am researching my family tree and have a much better feeling for what my ancestors lives were like. The book talks about how the poor immigrants settled in lower Manhattan and moved to the suburbs when they moved up to the middle class. My ancestors started off in Manhattan and ended in The Bronx.

A great book for anyone of Irish descent!
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on December 16, 2008
Mr. Dolan does a wonderful job of retelling the Irish American experience in such a way that it repeats the key and critical aspects yet at the same time is fresh and interesting. By focusing on such areas as faith, labor and nationalism he does a great job of focusing on what the Irish excelled at in assimilating to the American experience. The book works because it treads on the familiar names and turfs (Kennedy's, Boston, New York) while also venturing to San Francisco and the South and other areas that don't get much attention.

I also think Mr. Dolan deserves special praise for treating Al Smith as more than just a trivia answer or as the failed Catholic candidate before Kennedy. Like a lot of people in this book Smith is treated with an honest view warts and all of what he did yet no axes to grind seem evident here.

All in all this is a great work and I recommend it to anyone interested in Irish American history.
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