In his book of personal
reflections and poems, Through the Eyes of a Belfast Child, featured
author Greg McVicker recounts his childhood in Northern Ireland during
one of the darker times in Irish history. I sat down with McVicker and
discussed his story, his writing process and what it was like to finally
KE: Is this
your first time in Milwaukee?
GM: I actually
have friends in the Milwaukee area, so Iíve been in and out of here for
the last ten years, but this is my first time seeing such an extravagant
cultural event celebrating all about being Irish.
KE: What is
your book about?
Child takes you through my experiences as a young lad growing up from
1970 when I was born to 1985 in Northern Ireland. We were an Irish Catholic
family; although my siblings and I were all given English names by my Mum
so we could blend in, we were often identified by our school uniforms and
started hearing the very derogatory terminology cast against us which we
had no understanding of because we werenít involved in any of the political
movements. We were just an Irish Catholic family, but again they targeted
us as a result of a lot of the ethnic cleansing that was going on.
The book itself takes
you through a memoir and autobiography of my life starting at the age of
15. I carry you through different segments of my life, up until 2005 when
my mom had passed. And I bring you through that section up to learning
how to stand on my own two feet as somebody who is now living life as a
social worker and working with several marginalized populations and people
who have had their own very traumatic experiences in life
KE: Have your
experiences growing up helped you in your career as a social worker?
Seeing all the racism and the discrimination that went on, and seeing all
the marginalized populations I work with now in child and family services.
I try to help people overcome some of the barriers that they face and social
circles, environment circles, basically any part of daily living. I let
them know that I from a very rough place, a war myself, a political war
and Iím still standing here today telling my own story.
KE: What was
your process for writing this book? How did you decide to write it?
GM: Iíve been
writing poetry. I always wanted to be a musician and I started trying to
write songs. I always thought my songs began as poems, and no matter how
much work I put into them it was always a poem. So Iíd been writing poems
for 15 years and one day, a colleague of mine had been reading my poetry
and said "why donít you write a book, Greg?í So in two weeks the first
draft of Belfast Child was written.
My dog of 16.5 years
died in my arms, so my coping mechanism was to write. Within two weeks
the original draft went from 42,000 to 72,325 words. And then I just kept
writing after that. The editing process was the absolute horrible part
of writing a book. Writing was the easy part. They stripped 13,000 words
out to make it the book that it is today.
Although it was submitted
and accepted for publication and the story had ended about the Belfast
Child, the very next day that I got it back from my editor and publisher
there was actually a world event, the death of Nelson Mandela, who also
aspired for global change and for us to recognize who we are as human beings
and so I had to write about that. My publisher was like, "Greg you canít
do that you canít write no more. But I felt it had to be said.
In true Irish fashion,
you get to the end of the book and you think youíre done, but thereís a
whole other conversation waiting for you.
KE: Where are
you living now?
GM: Iím living
in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Thatís where we immigrated to in 1985. I
was homesick for 18 years and really didnít want to live in Winnipeg, I
wanted to home. A lot of the story itself centers around my desire to go
home. I thought everything was frozen in time. I came back as a man, but
all my friends were also grown as well. That was one of the biggest cultural
shocks Iíve experienced was seeing that everybody had also grown up and
time hadnít stood still.