As for Ireland—my grandparents came from Tipperary, probably in the mid-nineteenth century. The famine may have had something to do with it; records are hard to come by. My grandfather Caldwell was born in 1819, but there’s no birth certificate because, until much later in that century, the indigenous Irish were not included in censuses, like the slaves in America.
As second generation Irish-American, I was schooled in Irish patriotism at an early age, which is why I sent Kitty McCloud [in the Pig Trilogy] to Fordham, where she developed—and embraced—an intensified nationalism that matches my own. (It’s said that American Irish are more nationalistic than the Irish themselves. I’m not sure I subscribe. Then, too, we American Irish can revel in a patriotism that required no sacrifice of life or freedom.) There’s strain of romanticism in all this—which, I suspect, lies at the core of the trilogy. I loved writing it—particularly the parts where I’m mean to the English.* (Excluding, of course, Luke... Parker Bowles!!)
More about my Irish allegiance: Early on, my older sister Sally—a year and a half older—taught me a song—“The Wearing o’ the Green”—which we often sang. I can’t remember all of it but the refrain was:
She’s the most distressful country
that ever you have seen;
They’re hanging men and women there
for the wearing o’ the green.
Also: One year, on St. Patrick’s Day, my mother realized she was putting an orange in each of our lunches. Orange, of course, is the color of the Anglos. She wrapped them in green tissue paper.
*After all, they were a bit mean to us.
—Joseph Caldwell, author of the Pig Trilogy
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For Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting thirty-one remarkable women—one for each day in March. Today, on St. Patrick's Day, we’re proud to feature Edna O’Brien.
“People utter a lot of slogans but they are only slogans and what we feel and do is what determines us.” —Edna O’Brien
Edna O’Brien (b. 1930), an award-winning Irish author of novels, plays, and short stories, has been hailed as one of the greatest chroniclers of the female experience in the twentieth century. She is the 2011 recipient of the Frank O’Connor Prize, awarded for her short story collection Saints and Sinners. She has also received, among other honors, the Irish PEN Award for Literature, the Ulysses Medal from University College Dublin, and a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Literary Academy. Her 1960 debut novel, The Country Girl, was banned in her native Ireland for its groundbreaking depictions of female sexuality.... Notable works also include August Is a Wicked Month (1965), A Pagan Place (1970), Lantern Slides (1990), and The Light of Evening (2006). O’Brien lives in London.
Click here to find the perfect ebook to read during Women’s History Month, from biographies celebrating strong women to essays from powerful female voices to literature featuring feminist themes.
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