Our Immigrants’ Son
John Francis Patrick Murphy
Independently Published (2020)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (1/2021)
“Our Immigrants’ Son” by John Francis Patrick Murphy is an epic poem which explores the author’s family history, dating back to his ancestors’ arrival in America in the 19th century. The narrative chronicles the events of the family through generation after generation, ultimately ending up with recollections from the author’s own life. Most of the prose, however, focuses on Patrick and Mary Murphy, the author’s paternal great-great-grandparent’s and their son, the author’s great-grandfather, Michael Joseph Murphy. In reading about his ancestor’s pains and triumphs, the author paints an illuminating picture not only of his family’s history, but of American life in the middle and late nineteenth century. A culmination of faith, diversity, strife, war and prejudice, John Francis Murphy has captured a stalwart image of what it meant to be not just an immigrant in America, but an American overall. Topping off his family narrative with lessons to readers on how to craft their own family histories, “Our Immigrants’ Son” is part historical narrative, part personal reflection, and part emotional masterpiece.
“Our Immigrants’ Son” stood out to me because of the author’s recurring theme of inclusion, particularly regarding America’s history as a nation founded largely as a result of immigration. Considering the contemporary attitudes toward immigration regulation and reform that we are constantly being bombarded with in the news, it is a fantastic reminder that our nation was built on the backs of more different kinds of people and cultures than we can ever truly imagine or appreciate. I particularly thought that the author’s emphasis on immigration as being a “cornerstone” of American culture was well grounded, especially when Murphy ensured to remind readers that “Your beliefs may be different, and I honor that difference in a country founded on freedom of belief.” In my opinion, freedom of belief means that while I have the freedom to believe in a righteous God and in Heaven, I do not have the freedom to use that belief to oppress a different viewpoint. It seems like this is something that is being forgotten more often these days.
I happened to read “Our Immigrants’ Son” through the passing of my own mother. Ironically, my dad and his family got to talking about how they wanted to potentially chronicle their own family history. While our loved ones will ultimately have to leave us eventually, I was reminded that this doesn’t mean that we have to stop celebrating their lives. My mom’s story is only just beginning, and it is through the lives and beliefs of me, my siblings, our children, and grandchildren, that her legacy and the values of this family will truly grow and nurture future generations. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, if we’re lucky enough, will continue to guide us long after their time on Earth has come to an end, just as John Francis Patrick Murphy’s ancestors have guided him. It is largely because of the love and faith they instilled in us while they were among us that we are who we’ve grown up to be.
Overall, “Our Immigrants’ Son” was a pleasant, engrossing story about one family’s attempt to secure the American dream. It is a work which would be enjoyed by readers who enjoy books with Christian themes and those with interests in genealogy. It is a reflection of the dreams of many of America’s immigrants, both past, present, and future. Most people strive to do good in their lives. They value hard work, compassion, and the idea that one’s station in life is only limited by their own prejudices and insecurities. “Our Immigrants’ Son” is a reminder that in some way, most of us are all the sons and daughters of past immigrants. It doesn’t matter where we came from. Where we end up and how we got there is the moral of all our stories.