Frank McCourt's 1996 memoir about growing up in poverty-stricken Ireland in the 1930s and
1940s touched the lives of people all over the world. "Angela's Ashes" quickly flew to
the top of the New York Times bestseller list and remained there for 115 weeks, selling more
than 4 million copies worldwide. The memoir received the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for biography
and the LA Times Book Award, along with many others. McCourt then published a sequel to the book in 1999, entitled "'Tis," which continues the story of his life as an immigrant in New York.
Born in Depression-era Brooklyn in 1930, McCourt and his family moved to Limerick, Ireland,
when he was four. As he recounts in "Angela's Ashes," McCourt spent the next 15 years in
poverty. His alcoholic father abandoned the family when McCourt was 12, and his
mother, Angela, struggled to hold the family together.
In 1949, McCourt emigrated to New York, and, as he relates in "'Tis,"
held several menial jobs, including janitor at the Biltmore Hotel, before he
was drafted into the army.
"To arrive here was like emerging from an Irish womb," McCourt said in a 1998 Reader's
Digest interview. "I might have had the English language, but I was unequipped:
no education, no self-esteem; I was not a very fine specimen."
Although he never attended high school, McCourt was well read and persuaded an
admissions officer at New York University to admit him. He used the G.I. Bill to pay
for tuition and worked nights doing manual labor.
After graduating from NYU, McCourt spent the next 30 years teaching English in New York
City public schools, including the prestigious Stuyvesant High School. McCourt and his brother Malachy spent the 1970s and 1980s performing their
Off-Broadway variety show, "A Couple of Blaguards," recounting their Irish youth.
In addition to his two books, McCourt also penned the musical revue "The Irish ... And How
They Got That Way."
He lives with his wife, Ellen, in New York City and Connecticut.
Check out these sites for more about Frank McCourt:
A Big Ship Sailing
Sample some of McCourt's earlier writing in an article he wrote for Irish America magazine.