You can't outrun your shadow

Interview with E.M. Reapy


  • Eamonn Wall



E.M. Reapy was born in 1984 and raised in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, Ireland. She was educated at NUI-Galway, University College Cork, and Queen’s University Belfast where she received an M.A. in Creative Writing. In addition to other non-writing jobs, Elizabeth spent eighty-eight days working on an orange farm in the Australian Outback in order to secure a two-year visa to live and work in Australia – experiences that resulted in Red Dirt, her highly-acclaimed first novel. For Red Dirt, Reapy received the prestigious 2017 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, an award for a body of work by a young Irish writer showing exceptional promise. Skin, her second novel, also shares an Australian setting, among others.
I met E.M. Reapy for the first time when we read together for the ‘Over the Edge’ Reading Series at the Galway City Library in 2018. On that occasion, Elizabeth read two beautiful short prose fiction pieces. Of course I had heard of her acclaimed first novel Red Dirt but had not yet read it. The next day I went into Charlie Byrne’s and bought a copy of the novel. A primary focus of my research through the decades has been on the literature of the Irish diaspora and I was excited to read Reapy’s exploration of the lives of the young Irish who had left home and moved to Australia, most on short-term visas, in the wake of the 2008 recession that caused the collapse of the Irish economy and, for all intents and purposes, bankrupted Ireland. I found Red Dirt to be terrific in every respect: beautifully realized, terrifying in places, always absorbing, and moving. Reapy’s second novel, Skin, while quite different from Red Dirt, is equally important in its intense exploration of how difficult it can be for a person to live in her skin. After Dr. Gillian Dooley has heard me deliver a paper on E.M. Reapy’s work at the Irish Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand (ISAANZ), she asked me to interview Elizabeth for Writers in Conversation. The interview was conducted by email (January-April 2020).