Sally Rooney, Novelist and Tenants’ Advocate

ACORN Housing Tenants

Marble Falls      We’re not star struck, but we do notice when someone who is someone in the broader world gives us a shout-out.  We were OK with Brad Pitt trying to do something about the lower 9th ward in New Orleans after Katrina.  We liked Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neil, and Carroll O’Conner, Archie Bunker to most people, when they all recorded public service announcements for ACORN while we were fighting racial blockbusting in Little Rock in the 1970s.  We loved Samuel Jackson’s narration of ACORN’s history on the organization’s 20th anniversary convention video in 1990.  In the literary world, maybe our closest connection to big time novelists with literary fame was having Richard Ford volunteer on some house gutting projects in post-Katrina New Orleans, but now there’s Ireland’s Sally Rooney to add to the list.

You don’t know Sally Rooney?  You might be part of the “hey, boomer” crowd or moving ever closer to Generation Help Me, Please!, solidly in your middle age.  At only 32, Rooney is often touted as the singular voice of millennials.  She first caught attention for her novel, Conversations with Friends, and then blew up with Normal People.  Full disclosure, I read Conversations, but not Normal.  I found it interesting and her work well done, but the characters were so vapid and insipid that, through no fault of Rooney’s, they just weren’t for me, and, since it was fiction, I found it not to my taste, and, frankly, depressing if this was an accurate representation of a generation.

None of that is to dismiss her work or its subtle, embedded critique of her characters, which was very effective.   Nor do I dismiss her politics, which are clearly not as shallow as her characters.  She was on track to get a masters degree in politics after graduating from Trinity College in Dublin before she switched to literature, American lit at that, before hitting her mark as an author.

She was also a big time debater in Europe a decade ago, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find her as an aggressive and effective advocate for tenants and slamming and shaming landlords for their parasitical practices in the Irish TimesHaving read her work, I’ll bet she was seething a bit when they put her piece lambasting evictions, not as a guest column or op-ed on the editorial page, but as an opinion piece in the Life & Style section.  That’s a slap, and we don’t appreciate it.

We do appreciate in her excellent piece her giving props and referrals to CATU, the Community Action Tenants’ Union, in Ireland, formerly the Community and Tenants’ Union, an affiliate of ACORN, when she writes at the end of her piece:

In any case, if those in power are sincerely committed to allowing hundreds or thousands of people to be evicted into homelessness in the coming months, collective community action will be needed. Tenants’ unions such as CATU (Community Action Tenants Union) will no doubt have an important role to play, not only in the fight against unjust and inhumane evictions, but in the longer battle to organize renters and confront the disproportionate power of landlords in the State. If we are serious about ending the housing crisis, then we must all be prepared to stand in solidarity with tenants – and of course with our homeless population – in the struggle for justice. We in Ireland have a proud national history of fighting evictions: our National Land League was founded in 1879 for the very purpose of organizing resistance to evictions and forcing reductions in rent. Almost 150 years later, the fight must go on. If the Government doesn’t stop evictions, we can.

Point well-made by Sally Rooney and well taken by the rest of us.   About that there can be no debate.