Top 100 Irish America's Finest Writers & Media In the long tradition of Irish America the "word"
Top 100 Irish America's Finest Writers & Media
In the long tradition of Irish America, the "word" written and spoken has shown itself to be one of our greatest talents. And as the following list of extraordinary writers, broadcasters, newspaper men and women, television producers, and documentary-makers reveals, the tradition continues. From 9/11 to baseball, from soldiers wounded in the war in Iraq to sex slavery, the range of subjects covered is extraordinary, and the art of storytelling is flourishing.
Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers," says Jimmy Breslin. A New Yorker to his core, Breslin has chronicled the lives and injustices of his fellow city folk for over 40 years now, and he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary in 1986.
Like many newspapermen of his generation, Breslin is also the author of several novels and non-fiction books, including the recently published The Good Rat: A True Story. In this latest work, which is non-fiction, Breslin revisits the terrain of his unforgettable novel The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, weaving together stories of crooked cops and Mafia guys, and the perhaps not so bad rat who delivers the bad cops to prison.
Breslin, whose immigrant grandparents hailed from Counties Clare and Donegal, got his start in journalism at the now defunct Long Island Press, and has worked for such publications as the New York Herald Tribune, the Daily News and his current position at the Long Island-based Newsday.
Dr. Jerrold Casway
For thirty-five years, Jerrold Casway, a professor of History and Social Science/Teacher Education Division Chair at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland, has been actively researching and writing about Irish history and culture.
His major areas of interest are early modern Irish history and the sporting culture of nineteenth-century Irish America. Casway has written two acclaimed books, Owen Roe O'Neill and the Struggle for Catholic Ireland and Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball.
He has presented many papers on a variety of topics at ACIS National Conferences and has participated in commemorative symposiums on seventeenth-century topics in Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Letterkenny and Chicago. He is also a frequent presenter at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
A sought-after reviewer of Irish texts, Casway has published close to 50 articles on topics ranging from post-Flight exiled women, Irish and black relations in nineteenth-century America, the Irish in baseball, post-Ulster plantation settlements and the "Wild Geese" communities in Catholic Europe. He has also written about the O'Cahan, O'Dogarty, O'Neill, O'Donnell and O'Rourke families and their struggles for survival in the turbulent seventeenth century. Casway's next book will be a study of the ethnicity and culture of nineteenth-century baseball, concentrating on Irish-American ballplayers.
Phil Donahue, whose pioneering role in television journalism has gained him many awards and accolades, feels particularly proud of the recognition given to the documentary Body of War, which he co-directed with Ellen Spiro and for which he served as executive producer.
It was named Best Documentary of 2007 by the National Board of Review and selected for many film festivals. The film tells the transformational story of Army veteran Tomas Young, 25, who was
paralyzed by the bullet wound to the spine he received during his first week in Iraq.
"I discovered a great American in Tomas Young, a warrior turned anti-warrior, a voice of courage rising above the war drums, a voice to 'be heard behind the White House gate' in the words of the song Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder wrote for this film," Donahue says.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Donahue has had a profound effect on television and American culture.
As host of Donahue, he presided over nearly 7,000 one-hour daily shows, many on-location broadcasts and several historic broadcasts from Russia, and used the television talk show format he pioneered in 1967 to interview world leaders, celebrities, newsmakers and people from all walks of life for over 29 years.
Donahue, pictured below with Eddie Vedder and Tomas Young, was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame on November 20, 1993. He grew up in Cleveland and is Irish on both sides. His mother was a McClory.
Veteran newspaper reporter and author Jim Dwyer, who now writes for The New York Times, is known in the Irish community for his compelling reports on Northern Ireland. It was O'Dwyer who broke the news in 1997 that a new IRA ceasefire was soon to be declared.
That same year he presented a moving account of the life and death of Bernadette Martin, an 18-year-old Catholic girl who was murdered in her sleep for dating a Protestant boy.
A first-generation Irish-American - his mother Mary and father Phil are from Counties Galway and Kerry respectively - Dwyer attended Fordham College and Columbia University. He joined the Daily News in 1995, having worked for more than 11 years at Newsday. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for commentary and shared the prize in 1992 for metropolitan reporting.
Dwyer is also the author of three acclaimed books, Subway Lives, Two Seconds Under the Worlds, an account of the World Trade Center bombing, and 102 Minutes (which he co-authored with Kevin Flynn), a dramatic and moving account of the struggle for life inside the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, when every minute counted.
A native New Yorker, Dwyer and his wife, Cathy, have two daughters, Maura and Catherine.
As the Founder, Chairman & CEO of Irish Radio Network USA, Adrian Flannelly has for over 38 years dedicated his career as a journalist, entertainer and promoter to illuminating issues of concern to the American Irish community. And in all of his endeavors he is ably assisted by his wife and executive vice president, Aine Sheridan (pictured above with Adrian).
Described as "the dean of Irish Radio in the U.S." by the New York Daily News, "A promoter of incredible charm and energy" by New York Newsday, and "An entertainer, a lobbyist and an entrepreneur - a jack of all trades" by the Irish Times, Adrian has been a major force on the Irish cultural and political scene since 1970.
Using his popular radio shows as a conduit for change, Flannelly helped reform visa lotteries and immigration laws.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Flannelly, whom he refers to as his "good friend" as "Irish Cultural Advisor" to City Hall in January, 2007. That same year, Flannelly accompanied the mayor to Ballymote, Co. Sligo, where he dedicated a statue to General Michael Corcoran of the Fighting 69th.
The recipient of numerous awards, Adrian has been involved in many projects. He is co-founder of Project Irish Outreach Catholic Charities (Archdiocese of New York) and the Emerald Isle Immigration Center. In 2000, the Irish government appointed Flannelly as its U.S. Representative on its Task Force on "Policy Towards Emigrants." He also serves as the Irish Cultural Liaison for the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, adjacent to the World Trade Center and World Financial Center - a major attraction for millions of visitors.
(The recreated famine cottage on the site was transported from Flannelly's home parish of Attymass. Co. Mayo).
The Adrian Flannelly Show - now in its 38th year, airs every Saturday from 10 a.m-1 p.m. from midtown Manhattan.
Soon after graduating from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, Michael Garland sold his first illustration to True Confessions magazine. It was the beginning of a 34-year career. Along the way, Michael decided he wanted to write as well as illustrate, and to date he has produced 21 books.
He has also illustrated books for others, including singer Gloria Estefan and writer James Patterson. In fact, his illustrations for Patterson's story Santakid inspired Saks Fifth Avenue's Christmas windows.
Michael, who grew up in New York City and later Staten Island, cleaned floors in a nursing home and drove a cab nights and weekends to put himself through school.He always wanted to be an artist. "Drawing was the thing I did best. In school when they passed out the paper and crayons, it was my day to shine. My teachers would never hold up my math test, but everything I drew would be shown to the class and given a place of honor on the bulletin board. I started to think I might become an artist," he told Irish America.
In a tribute to his Irish roots, Michael based one of his recent books, King Puck, a kid-appealing tale, on an Irish festival. His father, whose parents were from Cavan, served in WWII before joining the NYPD. His maternal grandparents, Margaret and Michael Carney (who helped build the Empire State Building), immigrated to the U.S. from Mayo. Garland is married to Peggy and they have three kids in college, Katie, Alice and Kevin.
One of the great stylists who embodies New York, Pete Hamill has a similar feel for his city that Studs Terkel had for Chicago. He is also an outstanding and perceptive commentator on the Irish-American identity.
Throughout his lengthy career he has been, at various times, a journalist, essayist, columnist, short story writer, novelist, commentator and editor, but there is one very simple word that perfectly describes Hamill - writer. In his 1995 introduction to a collection of his journalism, he said writing was "so entwined with my being that I can't imagine a life without it."
As a journalist, Hamill has covered wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Northern Ireland, and has lived for extended periods in Mexico City, Dublin, Barcelona, San Juan and Rome.
Born in Brooklyn in 1935, the eldest of seven children, to immigrants from Belfast, Hamill has written extensively on art, jazz, immigration and politics. He has also written much fiction including movie and TV scripts and published several novels including Snow in August, Loving Women, and his most recent North River. His memoir A Drinking Life was on the New York Times best-seller list for 13 weeks.
Hamill lives in New York with his wife, Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki. The couple also spend long periods of time in Mexico. He is the father of two daughters, Adriene and Deirdre.
Recognized in Ireland and America as an expert on early Irish history and folklore, Morgan Llywelyn, who has thrilled millions of readers of such books as Brian Boru, Red Branch, Lion of Ireland, and Grania, has just completed one of the most ambitious projects in recent Irish fiction with 1999: A Novel of the Celtic Tiger and the Search for Peace, which was published in February (Forge).
This is the fifth and final entry in Llywelyn's Irish Century series, in which the prolific author traces the history of 20th-century Ireland through a single family. Llywelyn's accomplishment is all the more impressive because while she worked on the Irish Century series, she continued to publish other books in a variety of genres. Her book Grania was the source material for the Broadway musical The Pirate Queen.
Llywelyn makes history come alive, dramatizing events of Irish history through real life figures as well as her own sharply drawn fictional characters. Particularly striking in 1999 is Llywelyn's handling of the 1981 Irish hunger strike, the culmination of a prison protest during the Troubles, which left ten men, including Bobby Sands, dead.
American-born of Irish and Welsh ancestry, Llywelyn now lives in Dublin.She was born in New York City, but after the death of her husband and parents in 1985 she returned to Ireland to take up citizenship in the land of her grandparents and make her permanent home there.
Patricia McCormick, whose three books My Brother's Keeper, Cut and Sold deal with drug addiction, self-injury and sex slavery, is not afraid to write about characters on the periphery of society.
As she says herself, "I like writing from the point of view of the outsider. This perspective is the most interesting because it's usually tinged with longing, or confusion, or with a slightly off-kilter sense of humor. To me, that's much more interesting than a mainstream point of view."
A National Book Award finalist for Young People's Literature in 2006 for Sold, McCormick has a new book coming out in April called Up All Night - a collaboration with five other authors about six stories that take place after the sun goes down. Before concentrating on fiction, McCormick worked for, among others, The New York Times, Reader's Digest and Parents magazine.
A proud Irish-American, McCormick traces her Irish heritage on her mother's side to counties Mayo and Tipperary and on her father's to Galway. Her maternal great-grandfather was a member of the Molly Maguires. The former adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism lives with her husband in New York. She is the mother of two children.
Cait Murphy is an assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine in New York, and the author of Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History. A former Little League infielder, Murphy played softball at Amherst College, where she received her degree in American Studies.
Of Irish descent on both sides, Murphy says, "although our Irish roots are distant, my parents always took a keen interest in things Irish and from 1964-66, packed the whole family off (7 children at the time, 7 2/3 when we returned) to live in Dublin for two years. (My father, an artist who illustrated Prince Valiant from 1970-2004, was able to work from Dublin). This was a wonderful experience that we all remember with vividness and affection. I also |studied in Dublin my junior year, taking courses in Irish history and literature. My parents were also founding members of The Wild Geese, an Irish cultural organization based in Fairfield County, Connecticut."
Murphy has four sisters and three brothers, and a quick look at the names demonstrates the family affection for things Irish: John Cullen, Mary Cullen, Katherine Siobhan, Joan Byrne, Robert Finn, Brendan Woods, Cait Naughton and Mairead Walsh.
Her father's family (Murphy and Finn) hailed chiefly from Mayo, while her mother's family (Byrne and Cerbery) immigrated from Limerick and Kildare. Both sides came to this country in the 1880s.
Margaret Murphy, a three-time Emmy Award winning producer, began her career as a member of the original staff of Sesame Street and went on to produce groundbreaking children's programs for Nickelodeon as well as winning a Video of the Year Grammy Award nomination for Fun and Games.
The Television Academy also honored Murphy for her contributions as a producer and writer for ABC's Nightline, Dateline NBC, and the PBS series Smithsonian World. Her History Channel specials, and many A&E Biographies and recent work on NBC's new Digital Education Initiative all reflect her special ability to communicate complicated subjects in a way that engages the audience.
Murphy served as a film editor for several seasons of 60 Minutes at CBS and just recently edited the feature film Proud, starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea.Born in New York City, educated at Fordham University, Brooklyn College Graduate School and The Neighborhood Playhouse, Margaret Murphy fondly remembers a New York upbringing steeped in Irish tradition.
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