When I moved to Kodiak Island in 1979, I entered a world radically different from my Irish and Italian Catholic neighborhood outside Philadelphia. I now write about the cultures that shape us and those we pursue because they’re different. My essays have appeared in journals that include Connotations, Natural Bridge, New Letters, Oregon English Journal, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Oregon Humanities, and Portland Magazine. A number of anthologies feature my work, among them: The Stories that Shape Us: Contemporary Women Write about the West, Resurrecting Grace: Remembering Catholic Childhoods, Women Writing Women: A Frontiers Reader, and These United States (see “selected writing”).
In Alaska, Northern Ireland and other settings, I worked with women escaping violence. I earned a M.A. in anthropology and a Ph.D in folklore to explore how culture connects to healing. Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island tells the story of Mary Peterson, an Alaska Native midwife working to preserve Alutiiq culture and counter violence in her village. Remedios: The Healing Life of Eva Castellanoz chronicles the life of an award-winning Mexican artist and curandera, Eva Castellanoz.
Of Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island, writer Richard Nelson commented:
“Joanne Mulcahy’s writing is exceptional, and her scholarship meets the highest standards for ethnographic studies. Truly outstanding, she stands on the firm foundation established by Margaret Mead, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, and Colin Turnbull.”
Of Remedios, Julia Alvarez wrote: “Mulcahy has done for the curandera what Carlos Castanada did for shamanism. This book is itself a remedio, inspiring and healing.”
In 2013, I taught creative nonfiction in Morelia, Mexico and wrote essays about women’s lives through a grant from the Fulbright-Hays Program. I hope to develop a story exchange between writers in the U.S. and Mexico to create greater understanding between cultures.