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Cat in the Stax: Behind the Lines of Angela’s Ashes

By Jenna Newman

hand holding Angela's Ashes book

Now that we’ve read through Angela’s Ashes (1996) as part of the Read with the Other Jenna book club, it’s time to go deeper into the McCourt family, the writing of Angela’s Ashes, what happened after, and where to find more resources. Frank McCourt shared with the readers his childhood, starting in New York and then moving to Limerick, Ireland. We learned the heartbreaking details of his father’s descent into alcoholism until he was no longer present and the poverty that struck the McCourt family.

Three out of Frank’s six siblings died in early childhood, yet four of the McCourt brothers survived against all odds. At the end of the memoir, Frank gets off the boat from Ireland, back into New York, ready to start a new life.

But now, we are left with the question: what happens next?

Frank struggles to gain a foothold in New York at first, which he writes about in his second memoir ‘Tis (1999). However, eventually he becomes a city school teacher where he taught for 30 years after getting a degree in English Education from New York University and a master’s in English from Brooklyn College. Frank talks about his experiences as a teacher in his third and final memoir Teacher Man (2005). In 1994, Frank married Ellen Frey McCourt, who he was married to until he passed away in 2009 from metastatic melanoma at age 78. Frank is survived by his wife, Ellen, his brothers, Malachy, Alphie, and Mike, his daughter, Maggie McCourt, and three grandchildren.

Although Frank took on the voice of his childhood self while writing Angela’s Ashes, he did not write the memoir until he was in his 60s. He struggled with the writing process until writing a small anecdotal section, where he took on the voice of himself as a child, and ultimately found the voice we see throughout the entire memoir. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 and was made into a movie by British director Alan Parker in 1999. 

The eldest son, Frank McCourt, however, was not the only McCourt to take his hand at memoir writing. Malachy McCourt, the second eldest son, wrote two memoirs about his life after traveling to America. The first, A Monk Swimming (1999) about traveling through America and then the second, Singing my Him Song (2001) about his journey from being a drunk to a sober, loving father and grandfather. The four living McCourt brothers also became the topic of two documentaries, shot by Malachy’s son Conor McCourt. The first focused on their time in Ireland, The McCourts of Limerick, while the second focused on New York, The McCourts of New York.

If you’re interested in learning more about Irish culture, history, or the McCourt family, I’ve linked to a variety of different resources. 

  • McCourt Family Memoirs
  • Irish Studies Librarian, Jutta Seibert, can be reached by email here or schedule an appointment with her here. More information about the Irish studies collection can be located here.
  • Falvey’s special collections also hold two distinctive collections focused on Irish history and culture.
    • The McGarrity Collection consists of around 3,000 monographs focusing on Irish history, literature, folklore, description and travel, music, and Irish-American history. This collection also includes a complete run of the Irish Press.
    • The Limited Editions collection holds almost an entire collection of limited edition books and broadsides printed by the Cuala Press, an Irish press in Dublin operating in the first half of the twentieth century. 


Make sure to tune in tomorrow on Instagram and Facebook Live as I continue to dig deeper into the questions and themes posed in Angela’s Ashes.


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Adding all the other McCourt memoirs into my Amazon cart.

 

 

 


 


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Introducing Read with the (other) Jenna

What is “Read with the (other) Jenna”?

“Read with the (other) Jenna” is an opportunity for the Villanova community, as well as the larger community, to come and read together. It’s an opportunity to connect virtually, while also making time to get off of electronics and spend some time in books. We’ll be reading one memoir or classic novel per month during the Fall and Spring semesters. Then, throughout the month, I’ll be posting various content and food for thought for us to connect on. Finally, on the last Thursday of every month, I’ll jump on Facebook and Instagram Live so that we can have a discussion about the book.

Inspiration for Read with the (other) Jenna

I’ve always loved to read, but between grad school, being newly married, work and everything else in life, it can be hard to find the time to sit down with a good book. What better way to make sure you have time to read than making it part of your job? With the accountability of you all reading along with me, we can learn more about the literary world and the larger world through these books. 

For those of you who are book club enthusiasts, you may have picked up on the fact that our name is a spin-off of the TODAY book club, Read with Jenna. I may not be an author, news personality, and journalist, but I hope that you still choose to read along with me!

Introducing the FIRST book of the month: Angela’s Ashes

Angela’s Ashes was written by Frank McCourt and published in September 1996. This memoir is told from the perspective of Frank (or Frankie) as a child to a family that had recently moved from Ireland and then moving back to Limerick, Ireland at a young age. Falvey holds one copy of the book that can be found and checked out here

What’s coming up?

Find here a reading plan for Angela’s Ashes that will help you keep up and follow along! Each week, we will be posting on our social media check-ins and ways for you to engage with others as you read through the book.

Fall Books

October // Angela’s Ashes

November // The Other Wes Moore

 

 

 

 

 


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Hiding from the cold weather and reading Angela’s Ashes.


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Last Modified: October 5, 2020