Over the past decade or so, while the US economy has gone down the toilet, the dollar has crashed and burned, and xenophobia blossomed to the point of building fences on our borders, Ireland has become a prosperous nation built on new industries, the strength of the European Union, and the rising Euro. As a result, a centuries-long trend of Irish emigration has been reversed and now Ireland is a destination for the world’s poor and dispossessed looking to make a new life. One of Ireland’s premier contemporary writers Roddy Doyle takes on the challenges of the emerging multi-cultural society in his collection of short stories The Deportees and Other Stories (2008). The eight stories are built on the simple premise: “someone born in Ireland meets someone who has come to live there.”
Doyle is one of my favorite authors and I’ve enjoyed many of his novels including The Barrytown Trilogy: The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, and my favorite Doyle novel A Star Called Henry (sadly,a sequel to Henry called Oh, Play that Thing, was uneven to put it politely). Doyle may be the most appropriate author to write about this new Ireland. He has an eye for detail and ear for language, and his stories are comfortable in the space between poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Doyle originally published these stories as part of a regular column (in 800 word increments) fo Ireland’s multicultural newspaper Metro Eireann.
My favorite stories include:
- The title story in which Jimmy Rabbite of The Commitments decides to put together a new band, this time with no native Irish musicians, to play the songs of Woody Guthrie. I’d pay money to see that band.
- “New Boy” in which a boy named Joseph who escaped political violence in his native Africa has to stand up to playground violence on his first day at an Irish school. This story hits the nail on the head in showing a child’s perspective on being the new kid in class.
- “Black Hoodie” in which an Irish boy in a hooded sweatshirt and his Nigerian maybe-girlfriend lead store security guards on while their friend in a wheelchair robs the store blind. Its all part of a business proposition to test stereotypes and collect consulting fees from the store managers. It’s almost too clever for its own good.
By the way, watching the video below will apparently play a part in determining how Irish you are:
New York: Viking Penguin, 2008.