'Angela's Ashes' is a story of extreme hardship and suffering, in Brooklyn tenements and Limerick slums - too many children, too little money, his mother Angela barely coping as his father Malachy's drinking bouts constantly bring the family to the brink of disaster. It is a story of courage and survival against apparently overwhelming odds. Written with the vitality and resonance of a work of fiction, and a remarkable absence of sentimentality, Angela's Ashes is imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's distinctive humour and compassion. Out of terrible circumstances, he has created a glorious book in the tradition of Ireland's literary masters, which bears all the marks of a great classic.
This sequel to 'Angela's Ashes' is the story of Frank McCourt's American journey from impoverished immigrant with rotten teeth, infected eyes and no formal education to brilliant raconteur and schoolteacher. Saved first by a straying priest, then by the Democratic party, then by the United States Army, then by New York University - which admitted him on a trial basis though he had no high school diploma - Frank had the same vulnerable but invincible spirit at nineteen that he had at eight and still has today.
This is a tale of survival as vivid, harrowing and often hilarious as 'Angela's Ashes'. Yet again, it is through the power of storytelling that Frank McCourt finds a life for himself.
Frank McCourt arrived in New York an idealistic, impoverished Irish boy. He didn't know what he wanted except to stop being hungry and to better himself. Noticing how book-carrying students on the subway read and underlined and wrote things in the margins, he was fascinated. He joined the New York Public Library and every night, after work, he would read the great novels. He talked his way into NYU, gained a literature degree, then began a teaching career that was to last 30 years. McCourt estimates he taught 12,000 children in various public schools in New York, and it is on the teacher–student relationship that he reflects in 'Teacher Man'.
McCourt believes it was his attempts to control and cajole the thousands of children in the restless New York high schools into learning and achieving something for themselves that turned him into a writer. At least once a day someone would put up their hand and shout, 'Mr McCourt, Mr McCourt, tell us about Ireland, tell us about how poor you were.' Thus he learnt the power of narrative storytelling, and out of this invaluable experience came 'Angela's Ashes'. Now, in 'Teacher Man', he shares his reminiscences of those 30 years, and reveals how they led to his success with 'Angela's Ashes' and 'Tis'.