Ireland's Great Famine in Irish-American History

Enshrining a Fateful Memory

By (author) Mary Kelly

Publication date:

14 November 2013

Length of book:

288 pages

Publisher

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442226074

Ireland’s Great Famine in Irish-American History: Enshrining a Fateful Memory offers a new, concise interpretation of the history of the Irish in America. Author and distinguished professor Mary Kelly’s book is the first synthesized volume to track Ireland’s Great Famine within America’s immigrant history, and to consider the impact of the Famine on Irish ethnic identity between the mid-1800s and the end of the twentieth century. Moving beyond traditional emphases on Irish-American cornerstones such as church, party, and education, the book maps the Famine’s legacy over a century and a half of settlement and assimilation. This is the first attempt to contextualize a painful memory that has endured fitfully, and unquestionably, throughout Irish-American historical experience.
Kelly examines Ireland's mid-19th-century potato famine, its consequences within the transatlantic community, and the long-term impact of this event on the Irish psyche in the US. She recounts with impressive detail the mind-set of the Irish American community concerning an Gorta Mór and its linkages to ethnic identity, sociocultural constructions of victimhood, and the difficult process of remembering and internalizing such a tragic event. Although commemoration of the famine eventually found a vast global audience by the late 20th century, the journey was not an easy one. It took well over a century for the offspring of Irish immigrants to the US to recognize and understand the trauma wrought by the potato blight. Feelings of discomfort drove successful second- and third-generation Irish Americans to experience a form of historic amnesia when it came to their ancestors' troubled past. Kelly shows the complex evolution associated with public memory and trauma and the ways political and cultural rhetoric framed this debate. Meticulously researched, the book succeeds in capturing a fresh perspective on a complicated topic. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and researchers/faculty.