My Father Left Me Ireland: The complexity of Irish-American identity

Review: A letter from Peter Quinn to the author reflecting on what it is to be Irish

Morristown, New Jersey, USA - March 9, 2013: Formation leaders carry flags at the Saint Patrick's Day festival

Morristown, New Jersey, USA - March 9, 2013: Formation leaders carry flags at the Saint Patrick's Day festival

Dear Michael,

Although I’m as old as or older than the father to whom your letters are addressed, I can’t write back the way he could. But since you and I share an Irish-American heritage, I thought I’d send along some reflections.

“It’s a complex fate being an American,” wrote Henry James. Compared to the tortured fate of countries scarred by poverty and dismemberment, our citizenship in the world’s most prosperous, powerful democracy seems more blessed than complex. The complexity comes from the dynamic, protean nature of our American identity.

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