Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: The Irish Americans

The Irish Americans by Jay P. Dolan

Since I've been doing a little research on my family history this historical account of Irish Americans appealed to me. Never mind that I don't come from an Irish family (adopted or birth family), but I've been curious about how people during these times decide to cross an ocean to live in a strange place. And, I'm always just curious about the past. What was life like?

The book covers Irish immigration and assimilation from the 1700's up until current times. We get to see the struggles and opportunities that arise and how it all evolves over the years. The author focuses on a number of key areas such as religion and politics. While I know the Irish are known as a passionate group, especially when it comes to religion, this book did give me a better idea on how their faith impacted the American landscape and the significant role they had in American politics.

I was a little confused when the author explains that the Protestant Irish in America were referred to as Scotch-Irish only to lose that title and then (after what appears to be a period of time when the term wasn't used) the Catholic Irish took on that name. So, apparently, if you hear the term 'Scotch-Irish' you also need to know what year it was to determine what population of Irish it is referring to. Who the heck came up with that?

I have to admit that I had a cold strong enough to make my head fuzzy for about 2 weeks while I read this book. This made reading slow going... and might have led to me not really retaining what I read during that time. Perhaps I have the whole thing about the Scotch-Irish mixed up. Regardless, I found it an interesting read that gave me a clearer idea of how the Irish impacted the American landscape. And I also might have found myself from time to time reading this book with an Irish accent in my head (and no, I wasn't on any cold medication at the time). It just couldn't be helped.

Overall, this book reads a little bit like an interesting text book. It seems to repeat itself a few times unnecessarily, but that was easy to overlook as a slight annoyance. I really did walk away learning so much more about the Irish and America's history in general. And I have a new-found respect for the struggles our ancestors (Irish or other) fought against to find a better life.

Grade: B

Books read since the beginning of 2012: 18

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