This lively survey of the ever-changing Irish-American experience contains "many perceptive, and sometimes surprising, observations" ( The Irish Times ).
Irish-American Autobiography explores the evolution of Irishness in America through memoirs that describe, define, and redefine what it means to be Irish. From athletes and entertainers to saloon keepers, community activists, and Catholic priests, Irish-Americans of all stripes share their thoughts and perceptions on their ever-evolving ethnic identity.
Poet and Irish studies specialist James Silas Rogers begins his evocative analysis with celebrity memoirs by athletes like boxer John L. Sullivan and ballplayer Connie Mack―written when the Irish were eager to put their raffish origins behind them. Later, he traces the many tensions registered by lesser-known Irish-Americans who've told their life stories. South Boston step dancers set themselves against the larger culture, framing their identity as outsiders looking in. Even the classic 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners speaks to the poignant sense of exclusion felt by its creator Jackie Gleason.
Rogers also examines the changing role of Catholicism as a cultural touchstone for Irish Americans, and examines the painful diffidence of priest autobiographers. Irish-American Autobiography becomes, in the end, a story of a continued search for connection--documenting an "ethnic fade" that never quite happened.