Author Q & A
Q. When did you move from Ireland to the U.S?
A. I was teaching primary school in the Irish midlands when I left and moved to upstate New York at the very end of 1986. From 1981 to 1990, an estimated 200,000 people left Ireland. Many of us left for a better job--or any job at all. But others, like me, left for what the British author and journalist John Walsh called, "existential reasons."
Q. Do you consider yourself as an Irish author? Or are you a New England author? A Massachusetts author or writer?
A. I’ve never been an advocate of those hyphenated writer labels. Still, if I’m to wear any of them, it would be “immigrant writer.” There's a simple reason for this: Moving across the Atlantic to a new country has largely defined who I’ve become both as a person and as a writer. Or maybe it’s allowed me to come home to my original self.
Q. What inspired you to write and publish Green Card?
A. I wrote the title essay (see above) after a trip to my local USCIS processing office in Lawrence, Massachusetts. I went there to renew my then- U.S. Residency or Green Card (which, by the way, isn’t green). The other essays followed, and I was lucky enough to place those stand-alone pieces in various literary and other publications in the U.S. and Ireland.
I wrote and pitched these essays to give voice to the immigrant experience, including our sense of jittery or imperfect belonging in both our home and adopted countries.
Of course, there is no singular “immigrant experience,” but as a long-tenured immigrant in America, it’s my job to advocate for those who don’t have the legal status (or are too busy working three low-wage jobs) to self-advocate.
Q. Where Does Creative Writing Meet Advocacy?
First, as an Irish woman in America, I am duty-bound to honor my native country’s very long migration history—which pre-dates the 1800’s famine. I must also honor the inter-generational history of immigration within my own family.
These days, I am furious at these Irish-American politicians who claim or brag about their Irish ancestry (especially around Saint Patrick’s Day). Then, these same politicians legislate against the civil and human rights of other-nation immigrants and refugees to the United States.
However, on the positive side, this historical revisionism (mostly racially bound) reminds me just why, two years ago, I became a voting U.S. citizen.
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