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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Apr 17, 2020

Local Author Shares Glimpse on Growing Up Irish

By Deirdre Flanagan Ward

On March 3, residents of The Chelsea in Shrewsbury were treated to an afternoon of literature, laughter and a look into what it was like growing up Irish Catholic under the reign of strict immigrant parents. Outreach Coordinator Linda Magill invited her friend, neighbor, published author and screenplay writer to share a few of his treasured memories and tall tales with the group, and sign copies of his latest work “This is Your Brain on Shamrocks.”

Meet author Mike Farragher, Jersey City native and current Spring Lake Heights resident who is best described as “a rebel, a poet, and a trailblazer – an Irish kid from Jersey City who bleeds green.”

“This is Your Brain on Shamrocks,” is not only a catchy title for his book, it’s also a metaphor for the influence an Irish upbringing has on American children – which he details with honesty and humor throughout his series of short stories.

Farragher’s parents hail from Counties Galway and Limerick, Ireland, and he said like many immigrants, they toiled in manual labor jobs in and around Manhattan holding tight to the American Dream. Their goal was to move to the suburbs and create a better life for their kids, a life where they wouldn’t have to endure the hardships of their parents. However, and here’s the irony, having Irish parents also makes it interesting, for lack of a better word, to conform to the American way.

“I grew up in Jersey City, moving down to Monroe Township when I was 12,” Farragher said. “I was sent to school on the first day, teetering on the edge of my teen years, with tombstone buckteeth, expandable waist Sears Toughskin jeans bought in the husky section of the store, and a mustard velour top. It [took] so long for me to assimilate in the new school.”

“One of the things that shaped me in my formative years was growing up in the urban jungle of Jersey City and then spending summers on a rural Irish farm,” he added. “Calving season, as an example, was not a season we had on our calendar. Irish people who have cattle add that as a season.”

Humor, honesty and candor pepper Farragher’s written experience of an upbringing under the watchful eye of an Irish mom and of “being tangled in a compost of Catholic guilt, repression from nuns, and a shadow of doubt the other shoe is about to drop whenever you find yourself at a peak in your life.”

He said, “It’s in Irish mammies’ DNA to drop weapons-grade guilt bombs all over the house to keep the proverbial trains running on time, which makes for rich fodder for humorous stories in one’s later years. Writers always get the last word. Always.”

When not perfecting his “side hustle” of writing books, plays and screenplays, Farragher works as a vice president for a large Fortune 500 scientific supply and services company. He admits people often ask, “Are you going to kick the day job to the curb if the writing thing takes off?” And the answer is: He loves both aspects of his career.

“My day job is fulfilling, and I love my customers,” he said. “It also feeds my bank account, so I am never in starving artist territory. I have no distractions of how I’m going to make a mortgage payment to keep me from being creative. From a creative perspective, one feeds the other.”

His job can be difficult though too.

“As a writer, making time to write, sticking with the time you committed to, and then clearing your head so that you come from a place of nothing in which you can create something, that’s a perpetual challenge,” he said. “Meditating 10 minutes before writing time, lighting a few candles for a mood and/or a stiff whiskey usually does the trick!”

For more information about Mike Farragher and his updated blogs and stories, visit ThisIsYourBrainOnShamrocks.com.