When I met Tara Clancy at Book Riot Live last fall, I could not stop laughing.
Clancy is such a character. She’s a born storyteller, bravely narrating her own life in the boldest Queens accent you could imagine. She once told NPR:
“Unfortunately, people hear [my accent] and they don’t think, ‘Now there’s a person who popularized quantum electrodynamics,'” she says. “They hear it and they make judgments.”
I immediately fell in love with Clancy. I knew this was a writer I needed to read.
Clancy comes from a big, New York, Irish-Italian family. A former bartender, she considers herself a voice for working class women, and is quick to point out that the last time the voice of a working class woman from New York became commonplace in the American literary canon was when Betty Smith released A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. You know, 50 years ago.
Clancy is truly a voice for a new generation of New York women.
After falling in love with Tara Clancy’s voice and attitude last fall, when I picked up her memoir I found it a little lacking. Not that it wasn’t Clancy’s voice. Just that it felt like a muted version of her larger-than-life personality in person.
Even with reading a more muted version (seriously people – audiobook), I was completely absorbed by the life of the Clancys of Queens. Clancy tells the story of three generations of working class New Yorkers.
Her own childhood – spent flitting between three very different homes – is a story unto itself.
Clancy’s father lived in a converted boat shed in working-class Queens, bringing his daughter into the fold at the local bar and letting her run wild with all the neighborhood children. With her grandparents, Brooklyn-born Italians, she was at home jumping back and forth between the homes of them and their neighbors, begging sweets off elderly neighbors. Finally, in a twist of fate, weekends were spent at her mother’s boyfriend’s sprawling Hampton’s estate, with an immaculate croquet lawn and stimulating late night debates.
If you think that it must have taken a resilient little girl to leap between the disparate worlds with ease, you’re right. Clancy seems the kind of person who bounds through life with unmatched enthusiasm and adaptability, forming the world around her to her own standards and expectations.