Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan
What’s nu? Irish Jews. Who knew?
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan chronicles the history of Jews in Ireland through three separate stories, beginning with Ruth Greenberg, whose family accidentally arrives in Cork in 1901; moving into the mid-century with Shem, who is institutionalized after having become mute the day before his bar mitzvah; and then onto contemporary times with Aisling Creedon, a young Irish-Catholic woman living in London whose boyfriend has asked her to convert to Judaism. All three stories examine family, love, and the desire to belong, to family as well as to society. The first two stories cover decades, while the contemporary one takes place in a matter of days, tying all three together into a satisfying and inevitable conclusion.
Each story is haunting and heartbreaking on its own with characters that face discrimination with determination. Gilligan’s lyrical prose sounds like Ireland, even when mashed with Yiddish, and is made all the more poignant by her use of metaphor and storytelling as themes. In a time when discrimination and immigration are headline news, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan reminds readers that people cannot be constrained by the labels others use to define them.