The child of an Irish man and an Irish-American woman who split up
before he was born, Michael Brendan Dougherty grew up with an acute
sense of absence. He was raised in New Jersey by his hard-working single
mother, who gave him a passion for Ireland, the land of her roots and
the home of Michael's father. She put him to bed using little phrases in
the Irish language, sang traditional songs, and filled their home with a
romantic vision of a homeland over the horizon.
Every few years,
his father returned from Dublin for a visit, but those encounters were
never long enough. Devastated by his father's departures, Michael
eventually consoled himself by believing that fatherhood was best
understood as a check in the mail. Wearied by the Irish kitsch of the
1990s, he began to reject his mother's Irish nationalism as a romantic
Years later, when Michael found out that he would soon be a
father himself, he could no longer afford to be jaded; he would need to
tell his daughter who she is and where she comes from. He immediately
re-immersed himself in the biographies of firebrands like Patrick Pearse
and studied the Irish language. And he decided to reconnect with the
man who had left him behind, and the nation just over the horizon. He
began writing letters to his father about what he remembered, missed,
and longed for. Those letters would become this book.
way, Michael realized that his longings were shared by many Americans of
every ethnicity and background. So many of us these days lack a clear
sense of our cultural origins or even a vocabulary for expressing this
lack--so we avoid talking about our roots altogether. As a result, the
traditional sense of pride has started to feel foreign and dangerous;
we've become great consumers of cultural kitsch, but useless
conservators of our true history.
In these deeply felt and
fascinating letters, Dougherty goes beyond his family's story to share a
fascinating meditation on the meaning of identity in America.
7.56" l x 5.09" w x 0.90"