From its opening acknowledgements and introduction, this book draws you in and demands that you take notice of every word. Part memoir, part poetry, part polemic of the life she was forced to live, Rosaleen McDonagh’s extraordinary debut is a rich and complex portrayal of one woman’s life in modern Ireland.
As an Irish traveller, Rosaleen writes of her experience growing up in State care due to her disability, and the devastating impact this upbringing had on every aspect of her life: her identity, her independence, her education, her culture, her mental health. This experience provides a unique insight into the intersectional discrimination she has faced throughout her life as a Traveller woman with a disability. These characteristics weave together in such a way as to be inseparable, and she refers to the book as a celebration of not having succeeded in taking her own life.
The timeline of events is at times blurred so it’s not always easy to figure out the difference between the past and the present. The book might have benefitted from tighter editing in this regard, but this doesn’t take from its impact: it provides a fascinating insight into the fullness of Traveller culture and identity rarely portrayed in Irish writing, and a searing account of residential care for people with disabilities.
This work will provoke thought and conversation with young adult readers and is an important addition to the canon of Irish non-fiction.