Tom Hayden first realized he was ‘Irish on the inside’ when he heard civil rights marchers in Northern Ireland singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ in 1969. Though his great-grandparents had been forced to emigrate to the US in the 1850s, Hayden’s parents erased his Irish heritage in the quest for respectability.
In this passionate book he explores the losses wrought by such conformism. Assimilation, he argues, has led to high rates of schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism and domestic violence within the Irish community. Today’s Irish-Americans, Hayden contends, need to re-inhabit their history, to recognize that assimilation need not entail submission. By recognizing their links to others now experiencing the prejudice once directed at their ancestors, they can develop a sense of themselves that is both specific and inclusive: ‘The survival of a distinct Irish soul is proof enough that Anglo culture will never fully satisfy our needs. We have a unique role in reshaping American society to empathize with the world’s poor, for their story is the genuine story of the Irish.’
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We picked this book up in the bookstore on a bit of a whim and, upon opening it,I found myself absolutely rivited to it. THANK YOU TOM HAYDEN!!!!!! Thanks for telling me so much that I did not know about a subject on which I had that thought I knew more than, in fact, I did. Although he describes the journey of discovery of his own Irishness and heritage, I think that most Irish Americans will find great resonance in their own families and lives. I have visited the Republic of Ireland only once and I definitely want to go back and spend much more time there. The next trip will include the North-- which, prior to reading this book, I might have shied away from because of the violent reputation . Tom Hayden shines a light on the real history of colonialism in Ireland. In the light of American colonial history and rebellion, the history of the Irish people in rebellion should not be so difficult for Americans to understand. Learning the truth and fiction of this history is more important than ever as America continues the Imperialist traditions of England and other European countries in this new century. I ABSOLUTELY highly recommend this book to anyone with a drop of Irish blood or a love of the Irish soul.
(Review from The Irish Times) Having worked with, and written about, Irish America I was excited to get this book. But my heart sank when I saw the dust jacket, a sort of the wraparound Irish tricolour done as the American flag. The cliché is true, you can judge a book by its cover, and my heart sank further when I read the first line, concerning `..the millions of Irish people forced by the Great Hunger of 1841-55 to become exiled immigrants to America.¿ So it¿s millions, now, and the Famine went on for 10 more years than we knew about. No wonder the Famine is described here, repeatedly, as `the greatest upheaval of 19th century Europe¿, completely ignoring the Napoleonic Wars and all those Revolutions which tore Europe apart. The Famine looms large in this strange and humourless book, as does just about every other perceived historical grievance against the Irish. Hayden¿s central idea is that Irish-Americans are shamed by their heritage, news perhaps to those of us who have seen the drum-pounding St Patrick¿s Day Parades in every American city. He recounts how the immigrant Irish were marginalized and ghettoised by the WASP establishment but this is so well documented now as to be a Hollywood cliché, and yet Hayden treats it as a new discovery. He then proceeds to make what, for a liberal Senator, is a rather tasteless comparison, that the Irish experience is still somehow akin to that of the genuinely marginalized, such as blacks and hispanics. Irish-Americans, in his eyes, are a sort of perpetual psyhic underdog, instead of the more familiar fat-cats of corporate boardrooms and an ethnic group which dominated the police and metropolitan politics. Hayden treats his own experience with ethnicity as an illustration of some perceived wider situation - thus the book¿s title - but there is little research here or new interviews. Instead, we get Hayden¿s personal journey, and bits of his reading. He too, it seems, denied his ethnicity, until he came to Northern Ireland and got involved with Sinn Fein. As he saw it, the denial of respectability to the Republican movement was akin to the Irish American¿s denial of their heritage. It is an interesting parallel, although in its banal solipsism and absorbed self-pity, it may tell us more about the Irish¿American mindset than Hayden thinks. Predictably, his perception of the North is of the most simplistic kind, and often stunningly naïve. The Unionists are barely mentioned, and only as an ugly colonial leftover. The British are constantly demonised but IRA violence is rarely mentioned, Indeed, one could read the entire book and not realise that Sinn Fein had an armed wing called the IRA. But Hayden is a smart man who has the details and writes fluently. Thus his language is not the Brit-bashing balladry of your average Irish-American, but the `liberation speak¿ of the glibly informed. To begin each chapter, he mixes quotes from Seamus Deane or Eavan Boland, with quotes from people like the sister of Robert Hamill (savagely murdered in Portadown) an insensitive use of genuine victims to make some vague political point, but in this he may be similar to his Sinn Fein friends, whose names he endlessly and glowingly endorses. (Incidentally, how did that once interesting feminist poet, Eavan Boland, become among the most sentimental of `Famine¿ poets? ). One feels for John Hume here, as he tries to convince Hayden that the McBride Principles, will lose jobs in Northern Ireland, but Hayden, sitting in his well-heeled Californian kitchen, won¿t hear of it. He knows better than `mistaken¿ John. And this is what is so aggravating about the book. Hayden is not just lecturing us about Irish-America, but about Ireland too. Can one imagine an Irish politican writing such a finger-wagging tirade about America ?. Sadly, however, such books are the reason why so much of Irish America is unpopular in Ireland. It reminds me of a friend in New York who was harangued abou