I met Joanne McDade when I taught a class at the Pearl S. Buck House last summer. We’ve since become friends who share our writing hopes and dreams (and, yes, our doubts). Joanne is a lover of words and a lover of stories, especially stories that preserve our cultural heritage for future generations. She is currently working on a memoir based on her grandmother’s life and a mystery novel. She has been kind enough to review some of the programs offered by the Friends of the Doylestown Library for our newsletter. Following is her review of a recent program. Her husband, Tim, has become our event photographer. Enough from me, I’ll let Joanne tell you about a wonderful Irish storyteller.
A Consummate Storyteller
It was a winter evening in February, and we sat spellbound in the warmth of the Doylestown Library as Juilene Osborne-McKnight transported us to another time and place. The Friends of the Doylestown Library sponsored this engaging author, allowing us to travel without moving from our seats to a world where white deer turn into princesses. A fifteen-year-old boy becomes nine feet tall and defeats entire armies. Little People live under hills. The line between the real and the unreal is so blurred as to sometimes be unrecognizable.
The audience sat with rapt attention (Honestly, you could hear a pin drop.) as she donned the ‘Other Juilene,’ the one with the Irish brogue and the flair for the dramatic. She took us on adventures with brave warriors, faithful lovers, despondent young women about to be married off to the highest bidder, and men with PMS. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently the men of Ulster were doomed to have PMS for nine days a month because they crossed the wrong woman. They found it virtually impossible to fight during those nine days making the kingdom vulnerable. Sounds like a pretty powerful woman.
In addition to spinning stories of Ireland that mix myth and history, Juilene regaled us with anecdotes from her many trips to Ireland, bringing the wild beauty of the country alive for us. We couldn’t help but love the people of Ireland after hearing her stories about them. They are warm, full of wit and wisdom, down to earth, hospitable; and they love Americans. That’s refreshing, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t love a people like that?
There was a lively question and answer session with an audience in which many were Irish Americans. This is not a surprise since Juilene said that there are nearly 40 million Americans of Irish extraction. They came in three waves. The first group was the Scots Irish in the 18th century. The second wave came during the Gorta Mor or the Great Hunger of the Irish Potato Famine. The third wave came in the early part of the 20th century. Juilene was able to bring a culture and a people to life for us that have been integral in the growth of our own country.
Juilene Osborne-McKnight teaches Celtic and Native American Myth and Culture and creative writing at DeSales University in Quakertown, PA. She studied with Native American storyteller Joseph Bruchac. She is also the author of four critically acclaimed novels: I Am of Irelaunde, Daughter of Ireland, Bright Sword of Ireland, and Song of Ireland. She spends part of each year in Ireland introducing her students to the magic of that beautiful country and gathering more stories for her collection. For more information on her books and other opportunities to hear her weave her Irish tales, go to her website:
A note from Birth of a Novel bloggers: Thanks, Joanne. We hope you will visit us again and tell us something about your own writing.