Tag Archives: leaving home

Travel-writing award and an Irish Times feature

Adapted from an update recently sent through TinyLetter. To receive occasional news via email, please subscribe here. Thank you!

Honored and excited to share: an essay I wrote about the Irish diaspora recently received a bronze Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation — announced in Reykjavik, Iceland.

You’ll find “The global reach of an Irish village” featured in the Irish Times, online via the Generation Emigration blog and in print (on Saturday, September 27) in the Weekend Review section with a beautiful layout, including photos of my mom and my grandparents, Nell and Tom Sheehan.

If you know anybody else who’d appreciate or if you would like to share via social media, email, or an envelope (after printing!): The Irish Times, “The global reach of an Irish village

As well as examining the greater story extending outward from this village in Ireland (i.e., Moyvane in Co. Kerry), the essay provides a glimpse into the book I’ve been researching, writing, and editing for quite a while now. The great news is that my final manuscript is now complete — and I’m working away to find the right publishing house on both sides of the Atlantic.

Can’t wait to share updates as soon as I can!

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The reach of a single village: Moyvane, Co. Kerry

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Since my op-ed, “An Irish journey, shared by all,” ran in the New York Daily News on St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been touched to hear how much it has resonated with so many people from so many backgrounds.

My latest piece — published today by the Irish Times on its “Generation Emigration” blog — focuses on departure through the experiences of a single village in Co Kerry, Ireland: Moyvane:

“Time and again, places like Moyvane have seen their “children” and their descendants leave their imprints wherever they have gone. Some followed religious paths. Others laid roads, fought fires, and opened pubs. They went into medicine, law, business, and government. They shared the gifts of the instruments they played, the words they wrote, and the stories they told.”

From Australia to Brazil, England, Wales, the Gambia, across the United States, and elsewhere still… well, this community of roughly 400 people continues to have quite a global reach!  Of course, there’s an echo here shared by other villages, towns, and cities throughout Ireland and around the world:

“The significance of emigration… is that one country’s loss often means another’s gain. The reach of a single village can be disproportionate to its size.”

If you or your family hails from Moyvane (also known historically as Newtownsandes), neighboring Knockanure, or the surrounding area in North Kerry, please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.  I’d love to hear your stories as well.

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For many, reminders of exile

New York Daily News, source: nydailynews.com

Coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day this year, the New York Daily News published my op-ed, “An Irish journey, shared by all” — a reflection on the experiences of emigration and exile through the lens of our family’s story.  The gist:

“Today, crowds gather — as they do every year — on account of a saint who lived 16 centuries ago. It isn’t simply that everybody becomes Irish for a day. It’s rather that the Irish experience, like the experience of St. Patrick, resonates so broadly. Theirs is a story of departure as well as arrival, a reminder of leaving home, of those left behind.”

As well as  my excitement over seeing this publish online bright and early (i.e., at 4:40 a.m.), one of the day’s highlights for me was standing at the counter of a local convenience store here in New York flipping through the pages with the cashier to find the placement in print.  Having grown up abroad, she told me how excited she was to wrap up her shift to be able to read another immigrant’s story with the help of a dictionary, since she generally found it difficult to understand newspapers.

As you can imagine, I’ve been so humbled by the response thus far. 

If you haven’t yet, please read on — and share, like, and tweet away!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Forty years like yesterday

In July of 1972, my mom landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and went to see her oldest brother, his wife, and their three daughters in the Bronx. It was her first time in America, and, while there is much more to share in the book and on this blog, to simplify: last month marked her 40th anniversary here.

Most everybody knows the feelings that accompany leaving or being left behind. For all who have moved from one country to another, often without knowing if or when they might again see loved ones back home, those feelings are especially heightened. No matter how well-grounded the reasons for departure may be or how much time passes, memories of people and places don’t slip away and the experiences with distance and loss remain. For my mom, settling in the United States is inseparable from leaving Ireland and losing her mother.

This year, to help make the month of July a little less bittersweet, my sister Tara and I planned a surprise party to celebrate our mom and to honor hers. Our aunt and uncle hosted the gathering in their beautiful backyard in Princeton, Massachusetts, and we couldn’t have asked for more glorious weather to welcome family and friends who came from elsewhere in Massachusetts and as far away as Long Island, Pearl River, and New York City.

Posted on Facebook (sign-in required) and shared selectively through Google+ afterwards, I’ve also uploaded a Flickr slideshow that captures a glimpse of the fun.

(Ed. note: Embedding the code for slideshows has been breaking with WordPress, so I’ve included the links above; any advice welcome.)

As you’ll see in the second photo, we thought a celebratory banner would make a nice addition to the day. After a few searches online (and confirming the company’s legitimacy with the Better Business Bureau), I found BannerBuzz and designed our 12-foot vinyl greeting.  Allowing a bit more than a week for delivery, I had no worries until I checked the tracking code only to discover that UPS’s “shipment progress” column read like a warning: “This shipment is warehoused until it is released by Clearing Agency.”  Instead of coming from the company’s Greer, South Carolina headquarters, our order was on hold in Ahmedabad, India.

Two days later, I saw the good news that the banner had made its way from Gujarat to Mumbai.  From there, I followed its route online as it left India for Cologne, Germany, then Louisville, Kentucky, and eventually Windsor Locks, Connecticut before arriving on-time in Central Massachusetts.

Despite the “Happy 40th Anniversary in America, Nuala!” proclamation that had traveled the world to find its place draped over the rock wall at the bottom of the driveway, it wasn’t until my mom walked into the house and saw her sister-in-law Peg who had been there in the Bronx when she first arrived in America four decades earlier that she really began to recognize the reason for the gathering.

Later in the day, in the company of nearly 30 people who knew my mom from so many parts of her life (both past and present), for the first time I read aloud sections of my book.  The responses were all I could have imagined: others shared their memories of looking up to older siblings, of hearing their family stories, of leaving their homes.  The conversations continued late into the evening.

At the end of the weekend, my sister headed back into Boston and I returned to New York.  A few days after we left, my dad e-mailed to let us know just how happy our mom was and that he had hung the banner across the top of the bookshelf in our home office where it would be a reminder for the remainder of the year.

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