Ireland has undoubtedly produced a large amount of notable authors through the ages, from James Joyce to Oscar Wilde, Sean O’Casey, and Seamus Heaney. The history of Ireland’s artistic talent has always seemed overtly white and male, because it’s the white and male artists who have enjoyed the privilege of being oft-published and well-read.
In the past few decades, some incredible writing by women has come out of Ireland, from the literary fiction of Anne Enright to Louise O’Neill’s young adult feminist outlooks. I’ve loved the last few years of Irish publishing, but I’m excited for even more voices which are jumping up to expand the breadth of Irish literature.
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
Dara McAnulty is a conservationist and activist from Northern Ireland. His book is part memoir, part nature book, an investigation of the wildlife around him and his daily life with autism. McAnulty is a delight on social media, sharing his pursuit of all things conservation, and the book has the same sense of joy in the natural world. His sentences are delicate and beautiful, just like his care for the tiny lives in his environment. The most astonishing thing, though, is that McAnulty is just 16 years old.
Break the Mould: How to Take Your Place in the World by Sinéad Burke
Readers might recognise Sinead Burke as the first little person to attend the Met Gala, as well as being one of 15 women who appeared on the cover of the September 2019 issue of Vogue. In Ireland she’s a regular, erudite speaker on disability rights and inclusion. In fashion, she demands that exclusivity be reexamined and accessibility made the goal. Burke’s Break the Mould will release in October and is designed to help young people learn to love and empower themselves to build a fairer world. Her vision of the world, and Ireland, is one where everyone is welcome and valued— and it’s hard not to be convinced by her encouraging words.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
This is, in the words of the blurb, “about why black hair matters.” Dabiri writes a series of essays explaining black hair, through key moments in pop culture, history and mathematics. Dabiri takes the reader from the prehistoric to the future to explain black oppression and liberation. There’s no denying the powerful weight of the knowledge Dabiri spells out.
Off White Sheets by Vanessa Ifediora
Ifediora identifies as half Nigerian and lives in Belfast where she works as a portrait photographer. Her book is a short, sharp shock to the system, a collection of photos, narratives, and poems which circle around fear and trauma. This is a new voice of Ireland, singing a tune the country knows only too well.
Why the Moon Travels by Oein deBharduin
Published by the tiny Skein Press, this is a collection of folktales, a retelling of stories which have been passed down orally through the Irish Traveller community, generation after generation. The book is illustrated by Leanne McDonagh. As far as I can tell, it will be the first time Ireland has seen publication of Traveller culture on this level, with Traveller voices finally the ones doing the talking.