book review ’tis

I finished 'tis


Tis: A Memoir
Frank McCourt

by Frank McCourt this weekend.  It's another NYT bestseller that lived up to it's reputation.  It is the authors memoir of his own life.  I found it absolutely fascinating, once I got used to the writing style.  I have not read McCourt's other books, so I'm not sure this is his permanent style.  In 'tis I often got the sensation of becoming out of breath.  It seemed at times to be one long run on sentance!  However, the run on sentance style carries the story along quite well. 

As an "Irish-American" I had an interest immediately in the book.  McCourt describes his struggles as he enters the U.S. as a man born in America, but raised in Ireland.  He had no high school education, but worked his way up from a hotel lobby cleaner to an award winning writer.  He describes in rich detail the atmosphere of NYC post WWII.  I felt as if I could really see his various landladies and other people he encounters.  I'm of course amaed at his ability to drink like a fish….

One thing I picked out that particularly struck me were his description of Americans who can't be just American.

He remarks a few times that it's very confusing…everyone in America is hyphenated.  Italian-American, Irish-American,Mexican-American, African American.  Many of my friends worry that their children won't know much about their culture.  They mean their ancestral culture…If you ask children in Jr. High in the US about their heritage, often a mix of several ethnic groups comes out.  It seems to never be enough to just be American.  My ancestral heritage is pretty much Celtic, but I've never been to Ireland. In fact, I sort of prefer the family traditions that are more my culture than the Celtic culture. Mixed in with eating corned beef and cabbage is the celebration of St Lucia Day which came from a Sweedish neighbour my mother grew up near.  I often wonder why long term Americans are so eager to identify with an ethnic group.  McCourt expressed his frustration with this as he was discriminated against for being Irish.  I on the other hand, just find the hypens curious and interesting.  I do think it's important for Americans to know their ancestry,but I think some take it a bit far…I think in a lot of our minds, Americans think of Ireland as a country still involved in the potato blight, rather than the place it is now, with significant growth in the tech industry.

Anyway, excellent read.  I enjoyed it and plan on sharing it with a few others….

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5 thoughts on “book review ’tis

  1. I read 'Tis after I read Angela's Ashes. I liked Angela's Ashes much more than I did 'Tis, which is a sequel. It has been a few years since I have read either one of them. I must dig them out of my boxes of books and reread them.

  2. Like I-Luv-Eeyore, I liked Angela's Ashes more than Tis. I agree with you though that the story is very good once you get used to his writing style! It was a little harder for me to stay focused but I'm glad I did:)

  3. I couldn't pick up Angelas Ashes…recently every book I wanted to read turned out to be about alcoholic fathers…and I just couldn't deal with that in books…

  4. That topic of "hyphenated Americans" is interesting. When I was in 5th grade we moved to a very diverse city from a very homogeneous one – I became very jealous of my friends who were all fluent in another language. They were Korean-American, Native American, Greek-American, Taiwanese-American… and I was just plain old "white". On standardized tests for the "ethnicity" question I used to select "other" and write in "European American". I felt like my ethnicity was ignored.

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