All tagged writing about tragedy

The first chapter of my latest novel, Nadya: The Restoration of a Flying Tiger, is autobiographical. The little boy, “Jimmy Dade,” is me. The man, “Howie Hill,” is one of the Smyer brothers—embarrassingly I don’t remember his first name … maybe “Paul.” I remember so well the day I met him. It was the first time I realized what war does to a warrior. Like Chennault, he was a hero, but no book has been written about him, and he hasn’t even merited a footnote. As far as I know, no one in Amarillo remembers him or knows anything about him. His mother, his father and his brothers are long deceased. The Air Force undoubtedly didn’t know that he had died and so it furnished no marker for his grave, wherever it might be. Again embarrassingly, I forgot to put “Flying Tiger Smyer” in my novel’s Acknowledgements, even though he was the reason I wrote the book.

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“1847 … that’s when it began,” my elderly Irish-born pastor replied, when I told him that my ancestors immigrated to America from Eire because of the potato famine. After Palm Sunday mass, Monsignor had come into the parish hall and sat down where I was having coffee and doughnuts. Somehow, the conversation led to the greatest tragedy in the history of his homeland.

“Genocide,” he then quietly commented. “That year—1847—saw the most abundant wheat harvest ever. But the English exported it—to feed the British army, and they deliberately left the Irish field workers to either starve or emigrate. The only crop the workers had been allowed to grow in their little gardens was potatoes. But that year, the potatoes turned black and the vines died.  Our island’s population went from eight million to one million. … Genocide. … Tragedy.”

“But Father, good came from it,” I told him. “… at least for my family. … Romance: My famine-exiled great-grandparents met on the boat to New York, fell in love and married as soon as they landed. … So for me, tragedy and romance go together. … I’m writing a novel about it.”

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