Moya Roddy’s Sweet Writing Balances Some Bitter Situations

Fire in my head
by Moya Roddy
Culture matters, €12
Fire in My Head is a collection with characters that feel like real people you want to spend more time with. There’s retired Maeve, whose days are long and swollen with loneliness troubled by the arrival of a woman from the water-charge protests. There’s the 30-year-old single parent who gets bullied at work and has a chance encounter with “old wan” Mrs. K on the bus.

Or Barbara, who decides to hold her ground in the hospital and insist on proper treatment. Each shares difficult circumstances that revolve around small moments, change, resolution or revelation, with a sweetness to the writing that balances some bitter situations. Everywhere there is a sharp and sometimes humorous wit against adversity, be it climate change or direct sourcing, and truth here too, speaking to power. – Ruth McKee

A hidden story: the Irish language in Liverpool
By Tony Birill
G&K Publishing
North American Gaels: Speech, History and Song in the Diaspora
Natasha Sumner and Aidan Doyle, eds.,
McGill University Press
After the vicious attack on Liverpool supporter Seán Cox in 2018, the Spirit of Shankly supporters club contacted Tony Birtill, an Irish language teacher in the city, to request a translation of the phrase You’ll Never Walk Alone; he appeared on a banner expressing solidarity with Cox that was displayed prominently at games. Birtill, who died this autumn, tells this story in a gripping story in the Irish language of Merseyside.

The Irish language (and Scottish Gaelic language) even further is the concern of scholarly essays collected from the Gaels of North America. In the Irish-language ones, several intriguing characters are seen, including William Gormley de Mayo, who kept an Irish-language diary in Ohio in the 1840s; Patrick Lyden (b. 1832) of Connemara, who wrote a wacky story about his place of origin while living in Pennsylvania, and some 18th, 19th and 20th century emigrants from Cork and Clare who wrote poetry in Irish in Newfoundland, upstate New York and Montana. – Breandan Mac Suibhne

The same but different
Ed. Mikka Haugaard
Everything with words, £16.99
Editor Mikka Haugaard has curated a collection of 18 short stories, presented to the reader as the best stories coming out of lockdown. Whether it’s a tourist on the streets of Bangkok or a grieving girl in the Rockies, the characters in these stories have free time and plenty of thought. For wary readers who may think the pandemic itself may still be too raw an experience to be lyrical, it’s important to point out that Same Same but Different isn’t actually about the current global crisis, per se. Rather, it is a series of explorations of one of the most common consequences of Covid -19; solitude. Whether it’s loneliness, love, loss, or the quiet comfort one can find in being alone, these stories touch on what it means to be human, and not just in the throes of a pandemic. The literary equivalent of a box of roses (but thankfully without the universally maligned “coffee”), this collection has something for every reader. – Becky Long

Archipelago: a reader
Nicholas Allen and Fiona Stafford (eds)
Lilliput, 25 €
Archipelago was a 2007-2019 occasional literature and art magazine, where artists focused on their interactions with the Irish-British archipelago. It was “consistently interesting, provocative, and endowed with a complement of artists and writers who summoned an entirely new vision of land and sea, and did so from the insoluble material of a long-broken union whose fragmentation is underway,” say the editors. Here we have a selection of key contributions: poems, works of art, analyses, meditations, memoirs. Dividing the archipelago into its constituent countries, it reimagines the relationships between these islands, bringing divergent voices together in creative conversations. Among so many beautiful contributions, it seems indelicate to choose a few, but for this critic, Greim an Fhir Bháite (Deirdre Ní Chonghaile), Ailsa (Mary Wellesley), Leaves (John Brannigan) and Tynybraich (Angharad Price) are demarcated. – Brian Maye

Sunlight on a broken column
By Attia Hosain
Modern classics from Virago
Atia Hosain is an important but obscure figure in South Asian literature who, along with her contemporaries Anita Desai and Bapsi Sidhwa, chronicled the turmoil of pre-partition India and the demise of the British Raj in their works. Last August, Virago Modern Classics republished two of his books on the 60th anniversary of his influential novel, with a foreword by his great-niece Kamila Shamsie. Broken Column is a rich and textured depiction of the life of a woman in a privileged but conservative Muslim family in the mid-twentieth century. The book takes readers on Laila’s search for individualism and a liberal outlook on life that is at odds with the traditional Lucknow society that surrounds her. Against India’s growing resistance to the British Raj, this is an evocative depiction of a bygone era. – Rabeea Saleem

The end of bias
By Jessica Nordell
It’s a clever dissection of the biases implicit in the human psyche and how it might be trained to transcend it. Nordell dives deep into the fields of cognitive and social psychology, anthropology, and developmental research to identify all the factors that contribute to our implicit and unconscious biases. The book strongly features Patricia Devine’s work on the phenomenon and its implications for racial stereotyping and sexism in the workplace. Nordell not only highlights errors in our cognitive processes, but also digs deeper into how to rectify them with interventions such as diversity training and mindfulness techniques. The End of Bias is a comprehensive and illuminating book on what leads to bias and how to avoid these pitfalls. – Rabeea Saleem

People who don’t exist are citizens of an invented country
By Joe Morgan
Black Spring, €14.99
This is Joe Horgan’s fifth book, perhaps both his most personal and his most universal. Using his own background – Horgan grew up in Birmingham as the child of Irish immigrant parents but has lived in Ireland since 1999 – as a resonant starting point, he embarks on a reflection on the immigrant journey, considering, in a both evocative and economic prose, the reality of living perpetually between two places, between multiple existences. Ultimately, Horgan’s meditation on displacement, loss and hope looks its reader in the eye and asks for empathy instead of sympathy, solidarity instead of pity. Powerful and challenging work that will remain relevant as long as humanity continues to value the idea of ​​home and the right to belong. – Becky Long

The American Way: Stories of Invasion
Ed. Ra Page and Orsola Casagrande
Comma press, £14.99
Part of Comma Press’ History into Fiction series, The American Way is an ambitious anthology that seeks to bridge the gap between personal narrative and historically accurate narrative. Numerous specially commissioned fictional stories, each accompanied by an afterword written by historical experts, exist in the liminal space between imagination and reality, written by authors whose homeland was invaded by the United States, often in the name of democracy.

Provocative, engaging, and at times deeply unsettling, this blend of history and fiction is, in essence, an imaginative engagement with the seminal moments of our increasingly bizarre times, even as America itself grapples with the very notion of what its foreign policy should look like. to like. Multiple voices and perspectives offer the reader new avenues into the events of our recent global past, presenting us with the inescapable reality that what happens far away is often closer to home than we realize. – Becky Long

By Courttia Newland
Canongate, £12.99
Children singing colors, seeds growing to look like people, and terrorism on the moon are some elements of Cosmogramma, a collection of speculative stories that read like fables, with a chill of unease. A clone-like robot launched by Seneca, a corporation ruled by a divine figure is the opening story; robots have been developed over generations to protect and serve, but have evolved to surpass their creators. This story anticipates the themes of the collection: the frightening and wondrous heart of humanity; the double-edged sword of progress; moral boundaries. Whether it’s the strange dream made flesh or the old Manichean battle far in the future, these stories are surprising, dizzying and complex. The immensity of the different decors gives a strange distance to the whole, which suits a collection that crosses worlds. – Ruth McKee