Born in suburban Boston, where being Irish is a badge of social status, Edith Shillue traveled to Ireland's northeast corner in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement -- the historic 1998 peace treaty that promised to end war as a way of life in Northern Ireland. Spending time in both the middle-class environs of South Belfast and the rougher areas of Derry's housing estates, she recorded the prevailing moods of this long-troubled land as she lived and worked with its plain-speaking citizens. Whether reading in a library, listening to a cafe conversation, or transcribing legal documents, her keen powers of observation are always on display. The result is a revealing portrait of a people and a place caught between past and future during a time of profound change.
Shillue's encounter with Northern Ireland evokes comparison with an earlier journey she took to Viet Nam, another "post-war zone." Here, as there, she examines the function and protection of coded language, the burdens of tradition, and the comic yet painful testing of allegiance to ethnic identities. In daily conversation, the physical landscape, and the small, persistent gestures that help people survive difficult circumstances, she observes the separate identities of Ireland and describes their collision in both personal and political arenas. In so doing, she reveals her own Irish and American identities, both of which elicit warmth and understanding from her Irish acquaintances.
Edith Shillue is a teacher and writer who currently divides her time between Boston and Belfast. She is author of a memoir, Earth and Water: Encounters In Viet Nam (University of Massachusetts Press, 1998).
"A very well-written book. Shillue clearly has the talent to deliver considerable insights into the place and people she is writing about, and I have little doubt that the book will be enjoyed by its readers." - John McGarry, author of Northern Ireland and the Divided World; "A lively, humorous, and often moving account of an Irish American's year in Northern Ireland." - Jacqueline McCurry, Saint Joseph's College