Girl In Irish Synopsis
I am five years old when a local farmer first trains me like a dog to follow his whistle. For the next ten years I trail behind him like an obedient beagle hound to the corners of mucky fields or stone sheds or abandoned graveyards or the church sacristy where he molests me hundreds if not thousands of times and eventually rapes me. The landscape of my childhood, now thoroughly soiled by violation, salts a wound already gaping and open in my people- a love hate relationship with ourselves, our country and our culture. Little do I know that the whistle and all it demands of my own demeaning and debasement is already a calling well lodged in my marrow by history, oppression, religion and my second class place as girl and woman.
It is this scrambling for a lost language and way of life that propels all the characters throughout the unfolding chapters. There is Dadda and his love of everything Irish, Mamma and her love of everything foreign, Sheila my bully older sibling and her love of everything tyrannical and terrorizing as a means of governing the entire household. And then there is the village and its love of everyone else’s business that has the whole place hounded by suspicion and secrecy. Within the madness that keeps unraveling from the first line onward, an inner knowing tethers me to a tenuous truth that I sense yet cannot name. But this intact intuition (along with a healthy dose of acculturated denial and humor at the most inappropriate of times) is enough to preserve my innocence and absolute belief in magic and miracles. Everything becomes an opportunity to start again: a new jumper, a second hand bike, a red dress, a convent calling.
As I grow into my teens, it is this intact intuition that quietly rails against all I encounter of strict gender roles, social class disparity, shaming silence and a choking religiosity that a powerless people use as a beating post. By the time I am sixteen and experience first love, loss and betrayal as a lesbian in a convent boarding school, I am already a shuffling ghost, wearing my fractured identity around me like an ill fitting garment. But I don’t know this. I simply leave for College, completely unaware that the internal baggage I now carry far outweighs the battered suitcase in my hand with its scant offerings of belonging.
Girl in Irish is not just a narrative about abuse, trauma and its aftermath on an individual and a newly independent nation still rebuilding itself after 800 years of British occupation but about the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, hope. It is about the sometimes comical and always poignant journey of how we become, even with that tenuous and indestructible grasp on truth, the sum total of what we have learned to believe of ourselves as an indigenous people, particularly as girls.
Girls in every culture experience their own brand of dispossession and simultaneous feathered soul song.
This is the story of a Girl in Irish.