Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Clíona Ó Gallchoir
International Assocation for the Study of Irish Literature
Irish-Canadian Children’s Literature and Canadian National Identity
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

This paper proposes a discussion of Irish-Canadian children’s fiction, focusing on the work of James Heneghan and Caroline Pignat.  Both are award-winning authors, with Caroline Pignat having been the recipient of the prestigious Governor General’s award in 2009 for her second book, Greener Grass.  In Canada, the Irish-descended for the most part trace their roots to eighteenth and nineteenth-century immigrants and belong therefore to the early period of immigration and settlement.  Irish-descended Canadians are on one level clearly distinct from the new immigrants who transformed Canada particularly after the lifting of racial and ethnic barriers to immigration in 1967.  The texts in question, however, were written from the 1990s onwards and thus represent reconsiderations of national and communal identity.

Whereas Pignat’s series of novels deal with the Famine period and post-Famine emigration from Ireland to Canada, James Heneghan’s works for children and young people incorporate the experiences of both Irish and other child migrants to Canada in the contemporary period, as well as the historical experience of the Irish diaspora in novels such as The Grave and Wish Me Luck, set in Britain.

The texts discussed in this paper, in particular Pignat’s Wild Geese (2010) and Heneghan’s Flood (2002), suggest that representations of the Irish in Canada function on the one hand to reinforce Canadian national identity but that the impact of the official Canadian policy of multiculturalism can also be traced in these work and functions at times as a framework through which to represent Irish immigrants and Irish-descended characters. 

College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, UCC