ENTER THE IRISH-AMERICAN by Edward Wakin

ENTER THE IRISH-AMERICAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is not possible to present the Irish story in America without a recurring chorus of praise and abuse,"" comments Wakin, launching into the travails of America's first and most unmeltable ""ethnics."" Paddy and Biddy's experiences in the New World are related with gusto, beginning in the Famine years when ragged peasants arrived aboard the ""coffin ships"" to be greeted with unwelcoming signs of ""No Irish Need Apply."" One man wrote home in 1851: ""'My master is a great tyrant' said a negro lately, 'he treats me as badly as if I was a common Irishman'."" The long drive toward respectability, coupled with the stubborn persistence of a dual identity, is Wakin's theme, and he develops it via broadsides, anti-Irish epithets, the humor of Mr. Dooley and the rabid slanders of the Know-Nothing Party. Comic fiascos like the 1866 Fenian invasion of Canada are treated alongside the steady gains made by Irishmen in Democratic machine politics and their quickly established dominance of the Catholic Church hierarchy. Inevitably, Wakin deals in stereotypes since the image of ""reckless, good-natured, passionate, priest-ridden, whiskey-loving, thriftless"" Irishmen changed little over the years--even as the whole country began to don green on St. Patrick's Day. Nothing you haven't read before, but pleasingly presented via a pastiche of anecdote, blarney, and 19th-century newspaper reports.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
ISBN: 0595227309
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell