Who’s Your Paddy?: Racial Expectations and the Struggle for Irish American Identity (Nation of Newcomers)
Focusing exclusively on the city of Yonkers in New York, Who’s Your Paddy? purports to trace the evolution of Irish as a race-based identity in the United States. To tackle the rather broad subject of “Irish-American identity,” Jennifer Nugent Duffy divides the Irish into three basic categories: “assimilated Irish ethics” (descendants of nineteenth-century immigrants), “Irish white flighters” (immigrants who arrived in the 1950s-‘60s and moved from increasingly African American neighborhoods into Yonkers), and “Irish newcomers” (immigrants who arrived in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many of whom remain undocumented). She then further divides these groups into “Good Paddies” and “Bad Paddies,” which will strike some readers (as it did this reader) as the equivalent of using the N-word to describe racial politics in the African American experience.
This is a difficult book to get through. While some stretches contain readable, anecdotal narrative, where Duffy presents her arguments and summarizes historical detail the prose style is inelegant and jargon-bloated. Using the Irish community of Yonkers to stand as a microcosm for the entirety of the Irish American experience (Boston? Chicago? the rest of New York?) is the first of many scholarly pitfalls Duffy succumbs to.
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