Ashes of Roses
By Mary Jane Auch

“Here we are America, we’re just exactly what ye ordered. “Is what Margaret Rose Nolan, an Irish immigrant, said as she was entering New York gazing at the Statue of Liberty. With high hopes and a head filled of dreams, Margaret was excited to start a new life with her family. Ashes of Roses is a Historical Fiction novel that opens your eyes to what it would be like to be an immigrant in America during the early 1900’s.

This story takes place in a very important part of American history. Rose and her family come to America by ship. When they arrive they are sent to Ellis Island, where they can become Americans. To become Americans they had to be examined to make sure they weren’t carrying any diseases.
In the early 1900’s a dollar was undeniably worth more than it is today. A nickel could give you a ticket to the nickelodeon, which was a moving picture, or a movie. For Rose, a weeks worth of pay could be as low as $4. Though, even FINDING a job was very difficult. Most shop owners didn’t have enough money to hire another worker. Rose also had a hard time because immigrants weren’t welcome in some shops, and when she finally did find work it was in a sweatshop- a place where the working environment was difficult and dangerous, workers worked long hours and got paid very little. What Rose had to go through back then is very different than what we have to go through now.

The book cover

The main character of Ashes of Roses is a teenage Irish immigrant named Margaret Rose Nolan. Out of her family she’s the most excited to start a new life in America. Margaret is very interested in the American lifestyle: the way they talk, dress, and entertain themselves. She even changes her name from Margaret Rose Nolan to Rose Nolan to sound distinctive. Rose and her family feel they shouldn’t have to be ashamed about their Irish heritage, and she loves them for that. Her parents are Michael and Margaret Nolan, but to Rose they are Da and Ma. In addition to her parents Rose also has two little sisters and one little brother: Maureen, Bridget, and Joseph. Even though her family is her life she is very excited to meet new friends in America.

When you turn that first page and begin reading Ashes of Roses, the main character, Rose, is on a ship approaching America from Ireland. Once her family reached Ellis Island they split up to go through the inspection process. Mary Jane Auch explains the inspection process very accurately, right down to the eye inspection where they would use buttonhook to pull up the eyelid to examine for an infection.

When Rose and her sister, Maureen, finish the inspection they realize her little brother can’t be accepted in America because he has the eye infection, trachoma, and he has to be shipped back to Ireland. Rose fears that since Joseph has to go back, that she must go back too. After some discussion, Michael offers to go back with him, save up some money, and come back as soon as he can. Reluctantly, Margaret agrees to come into America without her husband, and promises to find his brother, Patrick, and stay there until Michael comes back.

Ashes of Roses is a book overflowing with conflict. Rose is always fighting with herself. She says she isn’t brave enough, strong enough, or smart enough to deal with situations. Also she is constantly fighting with her beliefs on whether something is right or wrong for her to do. Society is another big conflict Rose and her family face. Society won’t accept them because there immigrants from Ireland. Going along with that she clashes with other people. To stay in America Rose must convince her mom to let her get a job on her own. Another example is when Rose and Maureen fight on whether Maureen should go to school, or get a job with Rose. To conclude almost all of the conflicts include Rose.

Courage/Bravery was a huge theme in Ashes of Roses. It shows you that you don’t have to be the hero of the day to be considered brave, for small things Rose did were brave. One example is when she offered to support her family by going out and finding a job. Her courage/bravery is shown throughout the entire book; Mary Jane Auch really wanted her readers to know how to be brave in any situation.

Ashes of Roses really makes you wonder what it would be like to enter a new country, and when you wonder you’ll never want the book down, because you get so much out of this 250 paged novel. You will relate to situations Rose and her family go through, and you will want to have the strength to face your own fears.

Historical Background
Immigration was very big from 1850-1920’s. Most of them came from Europe and entered using Ellis Island, which was located in the New York Harbor. Immigrant had high hope of becoming rich because they heard “America has streets paved with gold!” but when they arrived they usually started with very little, and had to work there way up, which took a long time. Some immigrants saved so they could send other loved ones to America.

About the Author

Mary Jane Auch was born in Mineola, New York, and now lives on a small farm in upstate New York with her husband, illustrator Herm Auch. She and her husband work together to make children’s books, some examples are “The Princess and the Pizza”, “Chickerella”, “The Plot Chicken”, and more! They have two children, Kat and Ian. Reading has always been a part of her life since an early age, and she is constantly getting inspired to write and draw new things.

Auch, Mary. "Welcome to Auch Books | Auch Books." Welcome to Auch Books | Auch Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2012. <>.

Leah S.
Mr. Schuster-Language Arts
Edgerton Middle School
Edgerton, WI 53534