“We Irish prefer embroideries to plain cloth. To us Irish, memory is a canvas–stretched, primed, and ready for painting on. We love the “story” part of the word “history,” and we love it trimmed out with color and drama, ribbons and bows. Listen to our tunes, observe a Celtic scroll: we always decorate our essence.”
I am still working on some embellishment, but I was inspired to write my Irish-American story, The Brown and the White, by other stories that I had read, in particular John Powers books on growing up Catholic on the South Side of Chicago: Last Catholic in America and Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up.
I wouldn’t like to be compared to John Powers and certainly not to the writers from Ireland who toiled heartily to lay their soul out and tell their stories. Powers gave the South Side Irish Catholic community a kind of legitimacy to live and breath at a time when they were discounted. My family was among those who stood on generations of hard work from Ireland and did their best to succeed here.
I managed to communicate with John a few years before he died. He said he had written enough about Catholics, but I still wanted him to know how important his work was for us. Laughs, yes, a little cynical at times, yes, but his story was our story and we loved him for it. I can’t think of a greater compliment for a writer than having readers who love the writer for his work.
Besides Powers, I read a great deal of African American literature in high school, followed by more stories of many people who were up against it here in our country. These were different stories just as the experiences were different, but the genre for these fictional memoirs reflects people telling their own stories and making sense of their own experiences.