2016-10-26 / Book Review

“The Clancys of Queens”


“The Clancys of Queens,” by Tara Clancy (242 pp.; Crown, New York, $27). “The Clancys of Queens,” by Tara Clancy (242 pp.; Crown, New York, $27). What do you get when you pair the indomitable voice of a working-class, Irish-Italian New Yorker with often biting, but always clever humor? You get “The Clancys of Queens,” a memoir beautifully and colorfully written by Tara Clancy, contributor to The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and The Rumpus. Artfully told, her breakout memoir tells the story of her early years, splitting time between her father’s one-bedroom shack in Broad Channel, to her grandmother’s nursing facility, to her mother in Rosedale and the Hamptons. “The Clancys of Queens” gives a sweet, funny, heartwarming portrayal of a young girl’s fight to assimilate herself (and her accent) in all aspects of New York life.

Perhaps the most singular aspect of “The Clancys of Queens” is its unique perspective on life in the city. Told through the lens of the (rapidly disappearing) blue-collar core of New York’s working class, the family goes through hardship, uncertainty and the hard truths of growing up with wry wit and unflagging tenacity that proves Clancy over and over again to be a New Yorker. The characters in her memoir are those that you already know – people you’ve met on the bus; your fourth cousin who talks with marbles in their mouth; a gaggle of seventh grade girls, itching for a fight – described in loving and poetic style. Every detail feels wrought from the experience of every New Yorker, down to the trash-strewn blacktops of Queens, and immaculate lawn chairs of the Hamptons.

More than just a “barstool biography,” Tara Clancy tells the story of her humble beginnings with humor and affection – not sparing the details and realities of what a working-class, city childhood can be, but recalling them with a sort of rosy realism and love. Keep an eye out for her next book, “The Clancys of Manhattan,” which is promised to be the second in her series of memoirs; this time regarding her life with her Midwestern wife and their two sons.—Bronwyn Davila

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