Updated: Aug 24
Call it coincidence, synchronicity or luck. Or maybe it was my browser. See it had been acquainted with the word Sedaris during my search to find a stack of used books for a round of reading. Whatever it was I’m not too stressed about finding the words to describe it. I am ecstatic to have found Maeve in America.
A few days before purchasing Maeve In America I had googled and watched the trailer for the David Sedaris Masterclass, playing it over and over, contemplating a purchase but in the end I couldn’t justify any unnecessary spending during quarantine. So I thought it best to get as much out of the snippets of that conversation with the amazing David Sedaris. When the trailer was over I set out to find a copy of his new book Calypso and the book he talked about that influenced him as a young writer, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
After safely securing the two books in my amazon shopping cart I continued my search on another tab, exploring other literary recommendations to add to my reading list . I was sold when I read on the cover of a book in a red banner, “If Tina Fey and David Sedaris had a daughter, she would be Maeve Higgins.” I added it to my cart and checked out.
Upon arriving in the mail, I read the books in order, Higgins being the last author. A few chapters in and I realized Higgins is neither Sedaris nor Fey. She has brief moments of humor resembling Tina Fey and brief moments of satire resembling David Sedaris but like I said, brief.
What wasn’t mentioned anywhere is how important her voice is. An intelligent humor and memoir writer who after setting into her new home in NYC, came to an understanding of her own about the reality of being Irish versus the reality of being Irish-American.
Her observations on “Irishness versus Irish-Americanness,” also extends to the ban on our gay community in the St. Patrick's Day Parade from 1992 to 2015 resulting in another St. Patrick’s Parade being formed. Yes there is another parade besides the one on Fifth Avenue and that is Saint Patrick's For All, in Queens. Higgins also speaks of the influence of the Hibernian organization, The Irish Catholic fraternal organization in America. This ancient order clearly had an influence on Irish Americans; they banned gay people from the parade in America but back in Ireland the country voted by a huge majority to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.
Halfway into the book Higgins digresses from her pursuit to expose social injustice and gives us a lens into her life which I found to be interesting because she is refreshingly honest and funny. I do recall a few book reviews before my purchase from folks who were somewhat disappointed and bored by Maeve In America. I agree that the book lagged at the midpoint on chapters spent on personal recollections of family and a comparison of life in Ireland to that in NYC but I was invested because Higgins did an honorable thing in those first few chapters. I did wonder if she was misguided by publishers to be more accessible, to sell more books, hence why she digressed.
That’s purely my speculation. I remained invested in this book because I had faith in her voice and knew that voice would return to teach me something valuable.
Higgins is everything I aspire to be. I say “aspire” because I still don’t understand how my SEO actually works and I’m superstitious about my browser, my iPhone and Instagram ads. And I’m spooked by the fact that the David Sedaris Master Class trailer appeared on my Instagram after nearly a week of almost making the purchase but backing out as soon as the credit card information came up on my screen. How did Instagram know that I wanted to see that specific trailer? Am I getting this all wrong? Clearly I have a lot to learn about the world.
Maeve Higgins in the end, brought to the table, Friendship Park - which not many Americans know about. Which I have to admit, did not know about. As an immigrant myself I find this book is true to Higgin’s experience; she wrote the truth of the life she knew. I appreciate her candor in the chapters that readers complained about because I admired the way she noticed the oddness of being American in all the ways a foreigner notices. However she also pointed out how grateful she was for the Americanness in some ways. I can relate to this.
I came to New York as a teenager and because I was over eighteen years old by the time my family qualified for citizenship, I had to go through the process of taking the test and the oath. It was an overwhelming day of joy for me and I’ve since never taken for granted the promise to be good to my neighbor because I know how much this country has done for me even when I speak or write about all the ways in which most Americans are disconnected from realities outside of this country. I am proof of the cliche that America is the land of opportunities, it is the place we come to have a better life. And if I continue to point out our American flaws (because I still have the outsider perspective and I’m still aware of all the peculiarities of this new country) I am grateful for my life here and I aim to live up to my promise that day when I took the oath, to give back to my community, to always give back because this country has given me so much.