I suppose most of us look back at our childhood and have some good memories and some bad. I was a quiet boy in school, but I had saved my memories in a couple of books that I wrote. One is called The Brown and White and it is a fictional memoire of my high school days. I was in high school in the late 1960s in Chicago and I think in part that is what makes my story more compelling. By the time I got into college I decided to write this book–not necessarily to publish it, but to just record it–to spend some time on the exercise and create something.
I had been interested in writing. It took me over 30 years to craft The Brown and White. Meantime, I worked at a publishing house and I did a lot more living. I always thought I needed more experience to write something decent. I also read a lifetime of books in a couple decades. When I got serious about putting it all together, I found I had lost my copy of the book. I had to start all over, but I actually remembered much of it.
My memories didn’t die. For a while I thought time had passed me up. An Irish American life seems to have had its day in America with the likes of Frank McCourt and decades of others before him. In some ways I felt like an Italian-American author who had written a movie about gangsters just when people had enough Godfather movies and books in the genre to choke them.
Even though in the backdrop of my story was the racial turmoil of the King assassination and the American “troubles,” at times, I believed there was something of a Baby Boomer’s sitcom in my book. And then things changed in the world yet again and the book looked more current although certainly not as blood-and-guts visceral as much in literature today. In the end, I stuck to my story and let it rip.
And so The Brown and White was finally published.
Forty plus years in the making, The Brown and White is a fictionalized memoir that tells the story of Collin Callaghan’s freshman year at a Chicago Catholic High School. Collin is a white boy who is living in turbulent times in a changing city. He clings to his neighborhood and his family as he heads out each day with his classmates on the Brown and White, the ancient school bus driven by free-spirited Willie. Memorable characters abound as this story unfolds. Collin’s loveable family, especially his Irish Catholic policeman father and his Irish immigrant mother face life together. Collin and classmates blaze their own humorous and passionate trail through the late 1960s. A unique cast of terrific teachers are there to see the boys through. Laughs and life meet readers head on as they travel on The Brown and White.