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Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O'Hara

Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O'Hara

by Vona Groarke
Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O'Hara

Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O'Hara

by Vona Groarke


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A lyrical portrait of a young Irish woman reinventing herself at the turn of the twentieth century in America

Ellen O’Hara was a young immigrant from Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century who, with courage and resilience, made a life for herself in New York while financially supporting those at home. Hereafter is her story, told by Vona Groarke, her descendant, in a beautiful blend of poetry, prose, and history.

In July 1882, Ellen O’Hara stepped off a ship from the West of Ireland to begin a new life in New York. What she encountered was a world of casual racial prejudice that characterized her as ignorant, dirty, and feckless, the butt of many jokes. From the slim range of jobs available to her she, like, many of her kind, found a position as a domestic servant, working long hours and living in to save on rent and keep. After an unfortunate marriage, Ellen determined to win financial security on her own, and eventually opened a boarding house where her two children were able to rejoin her.

Vona Groarke builds this story from historical fact, drawing from various archives for evidence of Ellen. However, she also considers why lives such as Ellen’s seem to leave such a light trace in such records and fills in the gaps with memory and empathetic projection. Ellen—scrappy, skeptical, and straight-talking—is the heroine of Hereafter, whose resilience animates the story and whose voice shines through with vivid clarity. Hereafter is both a compelling account of an incredible figure and a reflection on how one woman’s story can speak for more than one life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479817511
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/15/2022
Series: The Glucksman Irish Diaspora Series , #6
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 203,151
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

One of the best poets writing in Ireland today” (Poetry Ireland Review), Vona Groarke has published twelve books, including eight poetry collections, most recently Link:Poet and World
(Gallery Books, 2021). A Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library (2018-19), she is the current Poet in Residence at St John’s College, Cambridge University in the U.K. Poet, essayist, editor and critic, she makes her home in the west of Ireland, where she reads and writes.

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

Note on the Poems xi

Prologue xiii

1 Being Here 1

2 The Long Shadow 7

3 Going and Coming 19

4 Domestic Service 33

5 John 61

6 Returning I 78

7 The Boardinghouse 101

8 Returning II 113

9 Not My Ellen 127

10 Loose Change 141

11 Home 159

Acknowledgments 178

Bibliography 179

About the Author 184

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