Frank McCourt spent his infancy in Brooklyn, his impoverished adolescence in Limerick, Ireland, and most of his adult life as a teacher in the United States. Though he never attended high school, McCourt spent more than thirty years teaching writing at Stuyvesant, a prestigious public high school in New York City. McCourt found his teaching career—which he has referred to as a “learning career”—fulfilling, but he never gave up his dream of becoming a writer. When he retired, McCourt and his brother Malachy began to perform a two-man show entitled A Couple of Blackguards, which featured many of the songs the McCourts sang together back in Ireland.
McCourt decided to pursue his dream of becoming a writer by telling his own story, in the present tense, more than four decades after he left behind Ireland and the bleak, painful upbringing that fills his memoir. Waiting decades before writing his autobiography gave McCourt the perspective to talk about his troubled childhood at a comfortable distance. He treats the subject of his own difficult life with evenhandedness and objectivity, showing none of the spite, regret, or rancor we might expect. Yet he never downplays the suffering from acute hunger and deprivation he endured throughout his youth. As he has said, Angela’s Ashes is “an epic of woe.” McCourt died of cancer in 2009.