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The sequel to Frank McCourt's memoir of his Irish Catholic boyhood Angela's Ashes picks up the story in October 1949 upon his arrival in America Though he was born in New York the family had returned to Ireland due to poor prospects in the United States Now back on American soil this awkward 19 year old with his pimply face sore eyes and bad teeth has little in common with the healthy self assured college students he sees on the subway and dreams of joining in the classroom Initially his American experience is as harrowing as his impoverished youth in Ireland including two of the grimmest Christmases ever described in literature McCourt views the US through the same sharp eye and with the same dark humor that distinguished his first memoir race prejudice casual cruelty and dead end jobs weigh on his spirits as he searches for a way out A glimpse of hope comes from the army where he acquires some white collar skills and from New York University which admits him without a high school diploma But the journey toward his position teaching creative writing at Stuyvesant High School is neither quick nor easy Fortunately McCourt's openness to every variety of human emotion and longing remains exceptional even the most damaged difficult people he encounters are richly rendered individuals with whom the reader can't help but feel uncomfortable kinship The magical prose with its singing Irish cadences brings grandeur and beauty to the most sorrowful events including the final scene set in a Limerick graveyard Wendy Smith


10 thoughts on “'Tis A Memoir

  1. says:

    My brother was the one who told me to read Frank McCourt’s 1996 Pulitzer winning memoir Angela’s Ashes It was one of the books that made me who am I today a voracious reader It took me 12 years before reading its 1999 sequel ’Tis short for “It is” Reason I wanted to let the cute and innocent boy Frank and his brothers Malachy Michael and Alphie to stay as long as possible in my mind I did not want them to grow up I wanted to hold on to the image of those boys running and walking around the impoverished and dirty street of Limerick searching for coal and food Angela’s Ashes struck me that much that I wanted the book’s memories to stay so I don’t want to imagine that those boys have grown up into men In fact when Frank McCourt 1930 2009 died two years ago July 19 2009 I did not want to hear about it I neither read the article on the paper nor looked him up at the website So both succeeding memoirs ’Tis and Teacher Man 2005 had to wait When I joined Goodreads in 2009 I added these books One of my first friends Charles was reading these and he liked ’Tis so much that he also same as his rating for Angela'sgave it a 5 star rating I promised him that I would read this too but I still could not let go of Angela’s Ashes memories My Peter Pan like behavior still won over my promise Then Charles had a hiatus in GR and I had another reason to bury these books at the bottom of my tbr heap of books Last month Charles suddenly popped up in GR after two years of absence Worse he also said that he would attend our group’s meet up so we will see each other face to face How will I explain to him that I have not yet read ’Tis? So I looked for this book No need to romanticize the image of the McCourt boys Wake up KD and face the reality People grow up age and die These are facts of life Even if reading provides us the opportunity to create fictional worlds in our minds facts are facts and Frank McCourt has long been deadSo I picked up ’Tis and started reading Oh I hated the first part What? The boy Frank is now a young man at 19 years old and left Ireland on MS Irish Oak going to New York? I struggled accepting the truth and could not relate to his grown up experiences almost becoming a sexual prey by a Catholic priest in a hotel US Army in Europe as a Corporal his visit back to Ireland graduating from NYU despite not finishing high school and his first years as a teacher at McKee Vocational and Technical High School and the prestigious Stuyvesant High School where his secret came out He is the teacher who never finished high school The story still retains that old playful and childlike tone that I felt in love with in Angela’s Ashes McCourt has this uncanny ability of making simple dialogues catchy and witty His tongue in cheek comments about Catholic and sex are just outrageous and can put smile even during gloomy days at home Gloomy because my daughter had an accident and she is now wearing a shoulder sling my wife feeling so busy sending and fetching our injured daughter to and from her school one of the maids is on vacation while the other one is 5 month pregnant with no husbandHowever the second part of the book is awesome Angela McCourt the mother pays a visit to her sons in the US Frank now a high school teacher Malachy a bar owner Michael an American soldier and Alphie living in Manhattan Then when Angela dies in the US she is cremated and her ashes are bought back to Ireland and was scattered in some tombs of famous people there It explains the title of the first book as it reminds me that I had that question before in my mindI am glad I finally read this book Now I can face Charles and say that I’ve read the book and we can talk about it And during the discussion I’ll bear in mind that all these things – the meet ups the friends we make along the way my daughter’s injury my pregnant maid without a husband etc – all these things will pass What is important is how we live the present And as they say if you should do something you might as well give it your best 'Tis your best that you should give life 'Tis