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A dazzling and bracingly honest look at a great people in a great land.
For many people in this country, Irish American culture conjures up thoughts of raucous pubs, St. Patrick's Day parades, memoirs peopled with an array of saints and sinners, and such quasi-Celtic extravaganzas as Riverdance. But there is much more to this rich and influential culture, as Maureen Dezell proves in this insightful, unsentimental reexamination of Irish American identity.
Skillfully weaving history and reporting, observation and opinion, Dezell traces the changing makeup of the Irish population in this country, from the early immigrants to today's affluent, educated Irish Americans. With sensitivity and humor, she pinpoints what unites them: the traditions (if not the practices) of the Catholic Church; a sense of social duty; humor, often self-directed; and the deep-seated, apparently unshakable belief that any achievement is accidental and could easily be taken away tomorrow.
From her exploration of the Church in Irish American life to her rediscovery of strong, culture-building women, to her historical and sociological look at the role alcohol plays in the Irish identity (here and abroad), to her discussion on the "New Irish," Dezell does not shy away from the central, uniting myths and methods of this proud heritage. Irish America is more than an enlightening look at a group of Americans masked by their own stereotypes. It is a long-overdue tribute to one of the building blocks of America itself.
"With a fabulous blend of eloquence and anecdote, insight and compassion, candor and wit, Maureen Dezell has brilliantly captured the Irish experience in America. This is truly a wonderful book."—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys and No Ordinary Time
"With this sparkling and shrewd portrait of a culture in transition, Maureen Dezell joins the ranks of the Irish American woman journalists who are as smart as they are charming."—Nuala O'Faolain, author of Are You Somebody?