Ethnicity and identity

One place I won’t be able to take you in future Bloody Murder books is a wonderful bar that used to be on Toulouse called O’Flagherty’s. They had two rooms, a Listening Room and a more traditional bar. In the listening room, two of the brothers who owned the place would sing. You were quiet in the listening room, enjoying songs ranging from Seven Drunken Nights to Four Green Fields.  O’Flagherty’s, unfortunately, did not survive the rent gouging increased that happened all over the city after Hurricane Katrina and hightailed it to Texas.

I grew up listening (not by choice) to an Irish music show every Saturday, all day, for a lot of years. While it wasn’t the pop music I would have preferred, the passion in Irish music is hard to resist. Catchy tunes, fun songs about fighting, drinking and wenching.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I knew I actually had a bit of Irish blood in the family. Heavily diluted of course and from a side of the family I never knew (my family has a complicated history I won’t go into).  It seems my maternal grandfather’s mother was half Irish. She was also a bit of a bigot, not approving of my Catholic grandmother. I knew my grandfather’s sister, who was a very nice lady, but I never saw her much.

Most of my blood is Eastern European. From the maternal side, there is the aforementioned Irish, a touch of English (which might explain my tendency to make tea in a crisis), but a lot of German and Lithuanian. I remember trying to find Lithuania on a map when I was young and I didn’t realize it had been subsumed by the Soviet Union. The other side of the family is Polish. The name Kulig is a word for a special kind of winter party. Basically, you get a bunch of people in a sleigh, visit a friend, knock on the door, rattle the windows until you’re good and cold, then your host opens the door and welcomes you in with food and drink. Eventually, everyone piles into the sleigh and goes on to the next home.

When I was first sketching out the character of Zofia, I wanted her to have a strong Polish identity, even though the only family she had was her parents and brother. I envisioned her parents, having run away from everything they knew, wanting to give her a sense of community that they couldn’t provide by blood.

It’s led to some interesting research, like a folk tale about the origin of Poland, including the white Polish eagle. I took it upon myself to try and duplicate my paternal grandmother’s mushroom soup. What I didn’t realize at the time (and was corrected by my aunt Barbara) is that a Polish Christmas Eve is vegetarian. I honestly did not remember that part of Christmas eve growing up, I remembered the mushroom soup, the pierogi and the heavily sugared cookie that I can never remember the name of.

I plan to do more for Feliz as well. The person I used as a template for her, is both Hispanic and black (her words), but I’ve also heard of and read about (and I believe another friend has a distant relative who was of) Free People of Color, or freed slaves in the Louisiana territory, especially around new Orleans. Look for some more of this in future books.

Thank you for reading. Also, if you won a book during my giveaway, please email me at bloodymurderbooks@gmail.com so I can make sure you have your copy.

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