“Poor: Grit, courage, and the life-changing value of self-belief” by Katriona O’Sullivan is the December 2023 selection for the IrishCentral Book Club.

Each month, we will pick a new Irish book or a great book by an Irish author and celebrate the amazing ability of the Irish to tell a good story for the IrishCentral Book Club.

“Poor" the first novel from Katriona Walsh, was published by Sandycove in May and has gone on to become a bestseller.

It recently picked up the Bookselling Ireland Biography of the Year and The Last Word Listeners' Choice Award at the 2023 An Post Irish Book Awards, where it was also nominated in the An Post Irish Book of the Year Award category.

I grew up in Birmingham, born to Irish parents who loved drugs more than me, I had a baby at 16,was homeless & helpless...I am now an award winning academic-grants worth millions, publications,a loving family & a full heart!

This is my thank you to the people who saved me! https://t.co/i4DkOPfybg

— Katriona O'Sullivan (@katrionaos) February 10, 2023

Synopsis of "Poor" by Katriona O'Sullivan

As the middle of five kids growing up in dire poverty, the odds were low on Katriona O’Sullivan making anything of her life. She became a mother at 15 and ended up homeless. Five rackety years followed – barely coping, drinking to escape – until Katriona, now living in her father’s native Dublin, hit rock bottom.

"Poor" is the extraordinary story – moving, funny, brave, and sometimes startling – of how Katriona turned her life around.

During her schooldays there had been teachers who looked out for her – beacons of stability in a chaotic childhood. They planted seeds of self-belief. In Dublin when she sought help, she found mentors whose encouragement revived that self-belief.

She got her act together, got a flat and a job as a cleaner, and got into Trinity College. Today, Dr. Katriona O’Sullivan is an award-winning lecturer whose work explores barriers to education.

Despite her professional success, and happiness in her marriage and as a loving mother, Katriona lives with the indelible legacy of her early years. Her book is a stirring argument for the importance of looking out for our kids, of giving them hope, practical support, and meaningful opportunities. 

Reviews for "Poor"'

"I read [Poor] in one sitting I found it so compelling. An amazing story . . . moving, uplifting, brave, heroic." - Nuala McGovern, Woman's Hour, BBC

"Moving, funny, brave and original - just like the author . . . absolutely incredible." - Róisín Ingle, Irish Times Women's Podcast

"One of the most important books I have ever read . . . a beautiful telling of determination despite the odds." - Lynn Ruane, Irish Times

"Raw and remarkable" - Irish Independent

"A book of empowerment and hope" - Patricia Scanlan

"An important contribution to our understanding of poverty and its impact." - Sinéad Gibney, Business Post

"An incredible read" - Business Post

About Katriona O'Sullivan

Dr. Katriona O’Sullivan was born in Coventry to Irish parents. In 1998, at 20, she moved from Birmingham to Dublin and subsequently enrolled in the Trinity College access programme. She went on to gain a PhD in psychology from Trinity and joined its staff. She now works as a senior lecturer in Digital Skills in Maynooth University’s Department of Psychology.

She has worked with policy-makers to develop strategies around education and inclusion, and has been an invited speaker at the UN, the World Education Forum, the European Gender Action Workshop on Women and Digitalization.

Most recently, the programme she leads to improve working class girls’ access to education in STEM subjects won the Most Impactful Initiative Award at the Women in Tech Europe Awards in Amsterdam. She is married with three children and lives in Dublin. "Poor" is her first book. 

(Synopsis provided by An Post Irish Book Awards, reviews and biography provided by Sandycove.)