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About Katie Kelly


The Kellys: An Irish-American Story
Copyright © 2004
by Katie Kelly
Inkwater P
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We are the Kellys.
We are Irish. Catholic. American. And that's about all there is to us. We're just an ordinary family with absolutely nothing special about us at all. Like more than a million other Irish people, the Kellys came to America in the 1800s escaping everything from poverty to persecution. And for over 100 years we have stood around in the middle of our American history as it swirled about us, hurried past us. Periodically we would jump in — or be hauled in — to participate until after awhile all that history we were caught up in began to mount up as the years and then the decades and finally an entire century gathered speed and rushed by, grabbing us and pulling us along with it. Without trying—and perhaps without knowing—we became part of this new history in this new country of ours. A history littered with covered wagons, Indians, abandoned children, world wars, more poverty, more predjudice, great sadness and hearty good times. Life and death.
As I began to sort through the pieces of my family's life, I realized with amazement: we were the Forrest Gump of families. Every time something earth-shaking or significant or momentous happened, the Kellys were there. We were not a crucial part of that history. Things would have gone on with us or without us. We didn't change a thing in the course of America's history or destiny. We weren't even an important part of it. We were just—there. In the middle of it all. It was an astonishing realization. — from the publisher

A Year in Saigon
Copyright © 1992
by Katie Kelly
Simon & Schuster
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In 1988 Katie Kelly took a vacation in Vietnam that was to become the first step of a larger journey. That Christmas in Ho Chi Minh City, Katie met her first Amerasian child, Kim, selling peanuts and postcards to tourists — an encounter that left a lasting impression on Katie, one that would change her life forever. Katie returned to New York but she could not forget the young casualties of the Vietnam War. In early 1990 she quit her job with NBC, packed her bags, gathered what few educational supplies she could find, and flew to Saigon. With some thirty-year-old teaching experience and a lot of gumption, Katie set off to aid these forgotten children. She was soon confronted with the harsh reality of entire families living under staircases, children getting barely enough food to survive, Amerasians living on the streets because their families did not want them or were ashamed of them. It was a deeply disturbing experience. Here were children barely existing yet hungry to learn. They craved learning English as the first step in their dream of coming to America. In this makeshift world, classes were often held anywhere — on the streets, in bars or parks, in a dentist's office, or at the beach. Teaching equipment consisted of road maps, catalogs, or simple things such as a glass of milk. Due to the language barrier Katie often had to demonstrate ideas such as sitting up and lying down. Her experiences were as funny as they were poignant. Katie was not just a teacher, she was a student as well. She learned not only about the lives of the children but about herself and her capacity to survive under debilitating circumstances and continue her mission. Her involvement with the students went far beyond English lessons. She became, as they called her, their "American mother." Katie took her students beyond the classroom to explore the beauty and culture of Vietnam. — from the publisher

This is a heart-tugger from former TV journalist Kelly, who presents a richly drawn portrait of postwar Vietnam and a harrowing picture of the lot of Amerasian children. But the core of the book is a sprightly account of Kelly's 1990 stint teaching in Saigon orphanages and at such improvised sites as restaurants and outings. ... Her story is an inspiration and a graphic reminder of the ravages of war. — Publishers Weekly

... touching, perceptive eyewitness account ... — Library Journal

An affecting account of a year working with Amerasian children in Saigon, by the former WNBC (New York) critic and Today Show regular. ... deft and touching. — Kirkus Reviews

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