In Memoriam: Frank McCourt – A New Yorker With Feet in Two Worlds

He was born in New York, reared in Limerick, Ireland, and then returned to the U.S. as a young man. After decades as a public school teacher, fame found him when he published Angela’s Ashes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of growing up in a poor Irish family. Even in his later years he had “unfinished emotional business” with the city of his childhood.

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Author Frank McCourt, who died Sunday at age 78, truly had his feet in two worlds. Hence, it was fitting that he provided his words –and his unmistakable Irish accent– for the narration of the radio documentary that gave birth to the Feet in 2 Worlds project, back in 2005.

Feet in 2 Worlds. Immigrants in a Global City was set in New York’s immigrant neighborhoods and told by immigrant reporters. McCourt’s first lines —read the full transcript here– were:

You arrive here as an immigrant and make a new life for yourself, but you never completely leave the country where you were born. It’s hard to find a home away from home.

In the introductory segment, McCourt said:

My name is Frank McCourt. I was born in New York and taken to Ireland when I was three. I returned to the U.S.A. when I was nineteen. Since then I’ve returned to Ireland frequently, even thought of going back and living there, but that’s another story.

Yes, going back and forth can be confusing. You wonder who you are, where you belong. Sometimes people ask me, “Do you consider yourself Irish or American?’” For a long time I didn’t know how to answer that question. I love both countries, but the people asking the questions were not satisfied, and I wasn’t quite satisfied till, somehow, the answer came: I am a New Yorker. This is where I was born. This is where I came when I was nineteen, and this is where I’ve decided I’ll live forever.

You can listen to the Feet in Two Worlds radio documentary at the WNYC, New York public radio, web site (on Real Audio.)

And you can read more about the documentary here.

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