Twenty years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the novel Rockaway Blue (Cornell UP, 2021) probes the griefs, trauma and resilience of Irish American New Yorkers wresting with the deaths and aftershocks of that terrible day. The book weaves throughout New York City, from the Midtown North precinct in Manhattan to Arab American Brooklyn, but it is so grounded in the Irish section of Rockaway in the borough of Queens that Rockaway itself becomes a kind of character
Like all of Kirwan’s work, it has a strong sense of history. In Rockaway Blue, Kirwan looks back on September 11 with admiration for the genuine heroism of first responders and skepticism about the “blue wall of silence” in the New York City Police Department. Equally important, he approaches the dead of September 11, and their surviving friends, relatives and colleagues, as three-dimensional human beings with their own mix of strengths, weaknesses, virtues and flaws.
Kirwan is the author of five other books, including the novel Rocking the Bronx, the memoir Green Suede Shoes: An Irish-American Odyssey, A History of Irish Music, and 16 plays and musicals. He is also the host of Celtic Crush, a radio show on Sirius XM.
He is probably best know as the leader of Black 47, an Irish rock band whose songs mixed Irish music, rock and roll, rhythm and blues and rap to celebrate immigrant experiences old and new and the socialist strain in Irish republicanism embodied by James Connolly.
Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University, is the author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York (Cornell) and co-author of All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants and the Making of New York (Columbia.)
Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.