An Irish comic and writer gathers essays about her experiences living and working in the United States.
In this sharp and readable book, Higgins (We Have a Good Time…Don’t We?, 2013, etc.) tells the story of how she came to America as an adult still learning how to go about “the endlessly tricky business of being a regular human being.” In “Rent the Runway,” for example, she details her experience of renting a decidedly unmagical—but more affordable—second-choice gown for her first New York ball. The process uncovered all of the author’s personal insecurities, but a moment of grace at the ball made her realize that she was more than just her attire. In “Pen as Gun,” Higgins turns her attention to her profession, discussing an especially memorable experience leading a comedy workshop in Iraq. Working with Muslim comics who spoke truth to power made her acutely aware of “the sliver of shared space between comedy and tragedy,” and it gave her insight into the dark humor of her Northern Irish counterparts. A keen observer of culture, the author offers timely insights about race and immigration in America. In “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability,” she describes how Irish-American nostalgia often imagines an Ireland that never existed; at the same time, she muses on the privilege her “indoor ghost face” has conferred on her in America. Higgins points out how early Irish immigrants learned how to collaborate in the oppression of other minorities to get ahead but how descendants like Mike Pence continue to ignore the crucial role race played in their ascension to (white) success. Her own commitment to truth before humor emerges clearly in “Wildflowers.” Unable to keep a promise to a producer that she would turn a podcast about immigration into comedy fluff, the author lost the show but maintained her integrity. Witty, humane, and topical, these essays offer an enlightened perspective on modern American culture while probing the energetic inner life of a bright young Irish comic.
A warmly intelligent and insightful collection.