So in the process of writing this novel there was a great deal of research, of course. I began with what I thought was a good idea of the history of the Irish, but was (and still am) shocked to discover what I didn't know. Seven of my eight great-grandparents were from Ireland. I was a history teacher for cryin' out loud! And still, what I didn't know about the "Famine", about the plight of my ancestors, actually led me to tears when I let it enter my creative soul. And then I got mad as hell, and still am!
I offer only "exhibit A" by way of explanation:
The title of the book is The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland. I bought it as a teaching tool, I think when I was already teaching at Kellenberg but perhaps before that, when I was teaching in Brooklyn at Our Lady of Refuge. It's 400 illustrated pages, so...good for middle school and early high school, which is what it was meant to be. Only here's the problem: a story on Josiah Wedgewood entitled "Vasemaker General to the Universe" merited 415 words of text and two pictures. Wedgewood lived in the mid-18th century, and like most Brits at that time defined "The Universe" as essentially the equivalent of Europe and the British Empire as it then existed. But my problem with Mr. Wedgewood is not about his delusions of grandeur (since that is a title he gave to himself), or even with the Brits of the mid-1700's.
No, my problem is with the bastards who published this "History of Britain and Ireland" in 1996. And why? Because the entirety of the Irish "Famine" in the 1840s merited just 316 words of text and one illustration. A hundred words less than the so called Vasemaker to the Universe. And even then, the incompetent fool who wrote the description of the "Famine" focused on the British Corn Laws which kept tariffs high on imported corn even after the first thousands had died from starvation. And the incompetent fool who wrote this text simply addressed the human toll of this "Famine" with a SINGLE SENTENCE......"But the repeal (of the Corn Laws) came too late to save the 800,000 people who died in Ireland."
I guess that's the Oxford way of saying...."Whoops, our bad. Now let's talk about pottery."
And why do I always write "Famine" with quotation marks? Because it wasn't a famine. Because there was plenty the land produced besides the blighted potatoes. There was wheat and corn and all manner of livestock...the bulk of which was put on ships bound for Merry Old England.
So yeah, I got mad. And I still am.