My Father Left Me Ireland, Michael Brendan Dougherty's collection of letters to his estranged Irish father, is a deeply moving meditation on family, heritage, and belonging. 

"My Father Left Me Ireland" is IrishCentral's May Book of the Month. Looking for Irish book recommendations or to meet with others who share your love for Irish literature and writers? Be sure to join the IrishCentral Book Club here and enjoy our book-loving community.

The position of being an American born to an Irish parent is often fraught with tensions, a state of constant "in-between". Not quite Irish, but not fully American. Michael Brendan Dougherty felt this tension more keenly than most. 

Dougherty was born to an Irish American mother and an Irish father who remained in Ireland and was only present via checks sent in the mail and a handful of visits throughout his childhood. 

Lovingly raised by his mother in New Jersey, Dougherty still yearned for his father, across the ocean in Ireland. In his absence, Dougherty’s mother strove to raise him with pride in his Irish heritage, teaching him phrases as Gaeilge, putting him to bed with Irish stories and lullabies, sending him to Catholic school with other Irish Americans.

Read More: My Father Left Me Ireland - An Irish American's Long Journey Home

But Dougherty came to reject this version of Ireland as a kitschy, romantic myth, and wanted nothing to do with his Irish heritage -- until he was about to become a father himself.

When Dougherty’s wife was pregnant with their first child, he realized that he wanted their daughter to inherit a meaningful understanding of her heritage and the pride that his father and half-siblings seemed to enjoy. Put simply, he wanted her to know who she was and where she came from.

Michael Brendan Dougherty. Photo: Gina Sierra

Michael Brendan Dougherty. Photo: Gina Sierra

In a quest to provide her with this sense of belonging, identity, and heritage, Doughtery, who is Senior Editor of the National Review, delved into Irish history, literature, and language. He studies Irish; he poured over the works of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce; he immersed himself in the biographies and words of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly and those who believed in Ireland and her sovereignty before anyone else did.

Over the course of these studies, Dougherty was inspired to begin writing letters to his estranged father about what he remembered, what he missed, and what he longed for.

Those letters comprise My Father Left Me Ireland, published today, April 30, 2019.

Though Dougherty's story is unique to him, this collection will ring a poignant note for anyone who has been deeply influenced by the absence of a family member or those who search for their identity, stretched between two countries and cultures. It's a must-read for Irish Americans and an important reminder of the meaning we can find in our history. 

My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son's Search for Home, is published by Sentinel, available for purchase here. 

"My Father Left Me Ireland" is IrishCentral's May Book of the Month. Looking for Irish book recommendations or to meet with others who share your love for Irish literature and writers? Be sure to join the IrishCentral Book Club here and enjoy our book-loving community.

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Michael Brendan Dougherty, author of My Father Left Me Ireland.Sentinel