Humbled by Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes

Reading Frank McCourt was a humbling experience.

I will surely not look at the kids on the streets, the kids with tattered clothes on, the kids with no shoes on, and even the most filthy kids around in the same way again.

img_0002Through Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt recounted his miserable childhood in Limerick, Ireland. A part of me wanted to hate his father and his mother, but these feelings were sidelined by my efforts to experience his childhood, one which you would never wish for anyone else to go through. If this memoir was written by a less dexterous writer, as a reader, you may be able to feel and see through his angst and his frustration. But even those emotions are put into another area for you to pick up later and choose to feel on your own, after you have read the book. Frank McCourt wrote of his childhood  from the understanding of the boy that was his age when he was going through those misery. He wrote about how he understood his world through the feelings of a 4 year old when he was 4 years old. As his reader, I see his world through the perspective of a 14 year old when he was 14 years old. I understood his determination and doubts through his 19 year old mind. All throughout the book, Frank McCourt tells his story with wit. I was incredulous and smiling at the same time.

What tugs at the heart is his helplessness to do something at the different stages of their lives but of course, a little boy could only do much. He and his brothers were trapped and born in their family’s circumstances. You are doomed if you have a father like his. Their father is the kind of man you wouldn’t wish for anyone to have. That’s how bad his alcoholism is.

The father was not a violent man. In fact, Frank McCourt even credits to his father his writing and story-telling interest. But he could let his family starve to death as long as he has his own supply of alcohol. Well, maybe Ireland isn’t known for the Guinness beer for nothing:-(.

It’s a sad memoir. There is nothing to be happy about with a childhood like his. But the reader will have the opportunity to feel and understand the mind of the young kid in tattered clothes seemingly walking aimlessly on the street. When before you only see the filth in the kid, reading McCourt would make you explore what’s underneath the filth… what is the  kid thinking and what is the kid feeling. And poverty does not take away the shame. It never does. They just have to hide the shame very well because they need to survive.

Poverty is harsh. Frank McCourt’s childhood was harsh.

You have to admire the man for rising above it.

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