Book Review

“The Clancys of Queens” by Tara Clancy

The Clancys of Queens: A MemoirDescription: Fifth-generation New Yorker, third-generation bartender, and first-time author Tara Clancy was raised in three wildly divergent homes: a converted boat shed in working class Queens, a geriatric commune of feisty, Brooklyn-born Italians, and a sprawling Hamptons estate she visited every other weekend. This childhood triptych comes to life in The Clancys of Queens, an electric, one-of-a-kind memoir.    

From scheming and gambling with her force-of-nature grandmother, to brawling with eleven-year-old girls on the concrete recess battle yard of MS 172, to hours lounging on Adirondack chairs beside an immaculate croquet lawn, to holding court beside Joey O’Dirt, Goiter Eddy, and Roger the Dodger at her Dad’s local bar, Tara leapfrogs across these varied spheres, delivering stories from each world with originality, grit, and outrageous humor.

But The Clancys of Queens is not merely an authentic coming-of-age tale or a rowdy barstool biography. Chock-full of characters who escape the popular imaginings of this city, it offers a bold portrait of real people, people whose stories are largely absent from our shelves. Most crucially, it captures—in inimitable prose—the rarely-heard voices of New York’s working-class women.

With a light touch but a hard hit, The Clancys of Queens blends savvy and wit to take us on an unforgettable strata-hopping adventure.

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I must admit I don’t usually read memoirs, but I picked up The Clancys of Queens mainly because it was based on an immigrant family living in Queens. To clarify, I am a first-generation immigrant and I moved to Queens a few years ago so, needless to say, I was intrigued.

Being as attached as I am to my immigrant roots, I was disappointed that this book portrayed itself as a story about immigrants when in fact generations had already been brought up throughout Brooklyn and Queens, well-established in the U.S.

Tara Clancy’s journey to finding herself was interesting in that it was diverse and she described how her upbringing made her so amenable to change. Her ability to move between near-poverty at her dad’s house to a limo ride to a mansion in the Hamptons per her mother’s boyfriend was the most noteworthy storyline. Tara’s relationship with Mark, her mother’s long-time boyfriend, was also especially fascinating. She describes him with a tender intellectuality that really made his character come alive and his effect on the course of her life was evident throughout the story.

The narrative itself was choppy, and while it was interesting, it wasn’t remarkable. On the contrary, it seemed like dozens of other kids growing up in the City went through the same milestones during that time period. This is probably why I don’t read memoirs – they always leave me wondering why the author thought their life was so incredibly special and unique to write a book about it.

Check it out for yourself on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon

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About the Author:

Tara’s stories have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times MagazineThe Rumpus, and The Paris Review Daily. She is aMoth GrandSlam winner, frequent host of The Moth Mainstage live shows, and has told stories  on the Moth Radio Hour,  NPR’s Snap Judgment,  The Story Collider and Risk! Her memoir, The Clancys of Queens, will be published by Crown this October. Originally from Queens, Tara now lives in Manhattan with her wife and two sons. http://www.taraclancy.com/

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*I received this ARC from NetGalley, as well as LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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