Friday, March 16, 2012

Welcome Sarah McNeal to The Word Place

The Irish in America 

Just for starters, the Irish did have that famine that drove them from their homeland.  Then, just a little mention here, it’s not like the Irish in steerage got into the life boats on the Titanic first, either. Once in America, the Irish were treated with distain and given only the lowest of jobs—say hello to coal mines and hammering spikes in railroads.  As a matter of fact, many advertisements for employment in the 1850’s often stated, “Irish need not apply.”  The Chicago Post wrote, “The Irish fill our prisons, our poor houses...scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic.”  Well, who said they were politically correct back then?  They could deny the Irish decent jobs, demean them because they operated outside the law to feed their families and then the coup de grace, they affronted the religion of the Irish.  They have been called Micks and other less savory names.  Their reputation for drinking and fighting is no more true than any other ethnic group’s desire to get rowdy but the condemnation of Americans attached this reputation to them as a means to degrade them.
     The Irish fought for their dignity and the Catholic church helped them fight for their human rights.  They fought back sometimes with the same brutality that others bestowed upon them.  Some of you may have heard of the Molly Maguires, an organization of Irish men who fought for living wages and safer working conditions in the coalmines of Pennsylvania.
     Finally, the need for Irish labored soared in the early years of the 20th century when industry boomed and the United States moved into an economic power.  The Irish won their claim to America society with grit and determination.  Yes, America is a melting pot of cultures and humanity but, I have to say, each ethnic group has had to fight its way into that melting pot.  Sometimes the scars are so deep, it takes generations to heal them.

For Love of Banjo by Sarah j. McNeal
Western Trail Blazers
     In my new release, For Love of Banjo, the hero fights for the right to dignity and justice.  He was born in a bordello to an Irish immigrant mother who died in childbirth.  Until the age of ten, a woman who worked in the bordello who had lost her family to fire raised him.  When she died, Banjo became homeless and found ways to fend for himself in the streets of Hazard until Harmonica Joe and Lola saw his worth.  Still, Banjo felt compelled to find the father who abandoned him and his mother.  He wanted the right to his personal history and dignity because he wanted to earn the right to ask for Margaret Ann O’Leary’s hand in marriage.  He yearned to feel good enough.  When he learns that his father may be an industrial magnate in New York City, he is hell bent on finding him.
     Here is a little bit from the book just before he leaves for New York to find his father.
    In one graceful movement, he dismounted the pinto then stepped to the porch where Maggie stood with unrestrained tears that flowed down her cheeks.  Banjo swept her into his arms and kissed her.  The kiss wasn’t his brotherly, friendly peck on the cheek.  He kissed her with a slow burning need and ran his tongue along the groove of her lips then slipped inside. 
    He tasted of coffee and mint.  Maggie reached up to weave her arms around his neck.  She stepped on her tiptoes to better reach him and taste him.  Her heart raced and heat rushed hungry waves of yearning into places in her body she never knew existed as she responded to his explorations with her own.  If only she could slip into his pocket and follow him wherever he went.  She wanted to become the marrow in his bones, to always be a part of him.
    Just when she thought he would take her to her room and make love to her as she had asked, the kiss ended.  Banjo bent his head his rough cheek rasped against hers.  The fragrance of him, a combination of horse, pine and crisp snow, caressed her senses.  He slipped his hand into her hair and gently rubbed the tender skin of her neck where her blood pulsed beneath his thumb.
    His mouth so close to her ear she felt the warm moisture of his breath as he spoke his last words.  She would never forget them, not as long as she lived.  Breathless from the kiss, he said, “Don’t forget me.  Write to me every day and I’ll write back.  You are the star in my sky and my compass home.  I’ll come back, if it’s the last thing I do, I will come back.  I swear it.”

Lulu :
Monkey Bars :
Available in all online bookstores in e-book or paperback.

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride
Western Trail Blazers
A Time Travel Western


P.A.Brown said...

I've been doing a lot of history about the Irish immigrants. And what I found was eye opening. I learned about the potato famine which had only been mentioned in school. My research has been concentrated in New York City. What really struck me was the parallels between the 1800s and today in terms of immigrants.

Each group which came over earned the same epithets -- they were dirty, disease infested, lazy, parasites and dangerous to the real Americans. The first Catholic Church, St. Patrick's was fought by nativists. What's really eerie is if you read newspaper accounts of the day, the exact same arguments were used to prevent it being built just like Muslims today.

And Latinos are dirty, diseased infested, lazy, parasites and dangerous to the real Americans. Sometimes it's word for word. Their fear was that the new immigrants would 'infect' the real Americans and change the way the country was supposed to be --WASP

It seems nothing changes.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sarah,
Great post. The Irish in Australia were treated in a similar fashion in the early days. Love the sounds of your story.



Susan Macatee said...

Being one-quarter Irish myself, I love to read stories of the struggle of the Irish, both in their native Ireland and in America as downcast immigrants.

Great post and happy St. Patrick's Day!

Celia Yeary said...

Oh! Of course, you're Irish! I'm reading a novel right now that I found on the Top 100 Kindle Books--The Cabin in the Woods. It's about an Irish family and their friends. The girl goes West, against everyone's advice, but she lived in a place where the Irish were at the bottom--even black men could work where they wanted. It's an interesting tale--certainly not a pure romance--just what I call a good story.
Congratulations on the release of your new book. See you next week on Sweethearts of the West.

Vonnie Davis said...

Interesting post. Some of the things your wrote about I knew and some I didn't. I'm always happy to learn something new. Helps keep my mind young. I certainly enjoyed your excerpt. Very well written. Drew me right in.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Sarah, and wow, what a sensuous love scene. It was very compelling and I felt I knew your characters with those few sentences and you took me right inside their minds and hearts. This book is sure to be a success with readers.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Pat, you have that exactly right and that is one of the things I hoped this article would bring to the fore.
Every ethnic group that has come to America has served a pentence just for being different. Their acceptence depends on how they handle adversity.
Thank you so much for coming by. It makes me very happy.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Margaret, you certainly came a longway to comment on my blog today. haha
I would have imagined Australians to be very open to immigrants but, when I graduated from high school, I applied for a Visa to go there and I saw that it was very restricted about who could come and how long they could stay. I almost moved there but I was afraid I would never see my family again and got cold feet. LOL

Thank you so much for leaving a comment and taking the time to read my blog.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Susan, Happy Saint Patty's Day to you, too.
I really appreciate that you took the time to come by and leave a comment.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Celia, when I was researching for this article, I really couldn't believe how badly they were treated. I knew about the Molly Maguires because my family knew some of them back in the day. I was blown away by how persistant the Irish are--in my family, wwe call it stubborn but maybe it's not such a bad thing after all.
Thank you so much for coming by and yes, I will be blogging at your place next week--an honor for me.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Vonnie, thank you so much for your kind words about my excerpt.
I don't know if new information is keeping my mind young; I have my grumpy days when I can't remember something and no matter how I try to pry open that drawer in my brain, it just won't open. Maybe my C-drive if full. *snit*
Thank you so much for commenting on my blog today.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Linda, you really made my day with those sweet comments about my book. I am so glad you could find the time to come by and leave a comment. It means a lot to me.

Diane Craver said...

I enjoyed your post, Sarah! I knew the Irish had it hard but I didn't realize how bad it actually was.

Congrats on your new release - loved the excerpt. You're a talented writer. And Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Cheryl Pierson said...

My mother's family was Irish. In fact, her grandfather's name was Euin Tolliver McLain! My mom had green eyes and reddish blonde hair. When my son, Casey, was born, Gary and I only agreed on 2 names--Casey and Nicholas (Nick). We agreed on Casey because it was different (and little did we know that was the year everyone would choose to name their girls CASEY!)LOL Anyhow, when he was about 3 we were at a family reunion and one of my great aunts said, "I'm so glad you decided to use a family name--Casey." As it turned out, on my dad's side, James Casey was an ancestor a few generations back who had come over from Ireland and "gone west". How I would love to know more about him! When we named Casey, we had no idea it was a family name. Great post, and as you know, I'm very partial to Banjo and Joe, both! LOL

Jacquie Rogers said...

Wonderful article, Sarah! And it's definitely demonstrative of the trial-by-fire the Irish went through to gain acceptance in the US.

I love your excerpt. Banjo certainly is the perfect hero. Kudos to you!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Diane, so glad you could come. I know the Statue of Liberty holds a tablet that says "come all you weary and heavy-laden", but that message of warm welcome doesn't always resound in the people who live on her good earth. I want to believe though in the goodness that resides in every being's heart and that some day we'll change. I guess that's my kum-by-yah wish. LOL
Thank you for that wonderful compliment about my book. I appreciate you dropping by.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Cheryl, that's just an amazing family story regarding Casey's name and the unknown family name in it. I know what you mean about wishing that you knew more about your ancestors--me too. There is so much I wish I had asked my Grandpap McNeal. He was born the year after the Civil War ended. But, I was a kid doing kid stuff and didn't know that it would be so important to me later. In any case, I bet you're glad you named your son Casey.
Thank you for your kind remark about Harmonica Joe and Banjo. I always love to hear from you and I'm so happy you had a little time to drop by today.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Jacquie, it's so sweet of you to drop in. Thank you so much for you kind comment about my new release, For Love of Banjo.
I think the Irish had rough in their own country and then here but they loved America just the same and they hung on to their dreams.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

The winner of Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride is Diane Craver. Congratulations, Diane. I will send a copy of my book to you ASAP. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

Diane M. Wylie said...

Hi, Sarah,

History is interesting, but often we find it wasn't as romantic as we might have thought. The stuggles and hardship people brought against each other would be a criminal offense today. Sometimes articles like yours help us to remember this.

Jenny Twist said...

Fascinating post, Sarah. The Irish came in for some stick in England, too. With much the same reputation. It was said that if you gave them a bath room, they'd use it to put the coad in, and that they kept pigs in the house. I have a history text book with a photograph of the window of a boarding house. It has a notice that says, "No blacks, no Irish". Fortunately, we don't feel that way anymore.