MY FATHER LEFT ME IRELAND
About the book:
In a series of deeply felt and fascinating letters to his estranged Irish father, National Review senior editor Michael Brendan Dougherty delivers a heartbreaking memoir on belonging, fatherhood, identity, and nationalism, in his debut book MY FATHER LEFT ME IRELAND: AN AMERICAN SON’S SEARCH FOR HOME; published by Sentinel on April 30th, 2019.
Michael Brendan Dougherty grew up with an acute sense of absence. He loved his mother, an Irish-American woman living in New Jersey, but longed for his father, an ocean away in Dublin. He was happy enough in America, but ultimately believed that fatherhood was best understood as a check in the mail. So his mother filled his life with their Irish heritage—lullabies, stories, Gaeilge, and Catholic school. He eventually wearied of the Irish kitsch of the ‘90s and rejected his mother’s nationalism as a romantic myth.
But when his wife was pregnant with their first child, Dougherty realized that he wanted her to inherit a meaningful understanding of her heritage and the pride that his father and half-siblings seemed to enjoy. So, he once again began studying the Irish language, recalling his mother’s lullabies, and reading Irish works by Yeats, Pearce, Joyce, and MacNeill. Most significantly, he began writing letters to his father about what he remembered, what he missed, and what he longed for. Those letters became this book.
Along the way, Dougherty realized that many of the questions he had about the role that ethnic and cultural heritage played in identity were on the minds of many other people too. So many of us these days lack a clear sense of our origins, and even a vocabulary for expressing this lack. As a result, the traditional sense of pride has started to feel foreign and even dangerous. We’ve become great consumers of cultural kitsch but useless conservators of our true history.
My Father Left Me Ireland thoughtfully and deftly explores questions about nationalism, belonging, identity, and the meaning of fatherhood. It paints a story of a lonely son, missing his father, and a man who discovered that the past can be a gift.
About the author: Michael Brendan Dougherty is a senior editor at National Review and was formerly an editor at The Week. This is his first book.
“A heartbreaking and redemptive book, written with courage and grace. It is fascinating reading for anyone who has ever wondered about the pain caused by that increasingly common American problem: sons growing up without their fathers. For those who have endured that pain, it is essential.” --J. D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy
"This rich, poetic book is not only about fathers and sons; it's also about discovering, through pain and perseverance, the most profound meaning of patriotism." --Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option
“A beautiful ode to the father of a fatherless boy, and to the redemptive power of a sense of history.” --Reihan Salam, author of Melting Pot or Civil War?