Allyson McCabe at Harvard Book Store


Why Sinéad O'Connor Matters

in conversation with GEOFF EDGERS


May 31, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes writer, reporter, and producer ALLYSON MCCABE for a discussion of her new book Why Sinéad O'Connor Matters. She will be joined in conversation by GEOFF EDGERS, national arts reporter for The Washington Post.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Why Sinéad O'Connor Matters

In 1990, Sinéad O’Connor’s video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” turned her into a superstar. Two years later, an appearance on Saturday Night Live turned her into a scandal. For many people—including, for years, the author—what they knew of O’Connor stopped there. Allyson McCabe believes it’s time to reassess our old judgments about Sinéad O’Connor and to expose the machinery that built her up and knocked her down.

Addressing triumph and struggle, sound and story, Why Sinéad O’Connor Matters argues that its subject has been repeatedly manipulated and misunderstood by a culture that is often hostile to women who speak their minds (in O’Connor’s case, by shaving her head, championing rappers, and tearing up a picture of the pope on live television). McCabe details O’Connor’s childhood abuse, her initial success, and the backlash against her radical politics without shying away from the difficult issues her career raises. She compares O’Connor to Madonna, another superstar who challenged the Catholic Church, and Prince, who wrote her biggest hit and allegedly assaulted her. A journalist herself, McCabe exposes how the media distorts not only how we see O’Connor but how we see ourselves, and she weighs the risks of telling a story that hits close to home.

In an era when popular understanding of mental health has improved and the public eagerly celebrates feminist struggles of the past, it can be easy to forget how O’Connor suffered for being herself. This is the book her admirers and defenders have been waiting for.

Praise for Why Sinéad O'Connor Matters

"Allyson McCabe’s intensely engaging, thoroughly researched, and deeply personal critical assessment, Why Sinéad O’Connor Matters, makes a serious and sharply observed yet compassionate appraisal of its subject, inarguably among the most influential artists of the late 1980s and early ’90s. McCabe’s willingness to reassess her own dismissal of Sinéad’s work as being too pop to take seriously is rare; not many writers are willing to be honest about what they miss. Acknowledging that Sinéad's life story can be a difficult, contradictory mess, McCabe painstakingly relates this magnificent, irreplaceable artist's tale to her own heartfelt story, showing us in the process how and why so many of us also connect with Sinéad." —Vernon Reid

"Why Sinéad O’Connor Matters is a thought-provoking look at one of the most influential artists and activists of our time that ultimately asks, 'Why did we abandon her?' In her time of need, when she needed support, when she stood by her values--her audience trusted the industry more than the artist. I hope this book is read by those who don’t know Sinéad’s story, and those that do will gain insight into the pain and punk ethos she still stands for. Allyson McCabe makes us all want to ask Sinéad for forgiveness and, one hopes, ask ourselves how we can do things differently." —Sharon Van Etten

"Sinéad O’Connor is a brilliant, fragile, and exceptionally courageous talent whilst blessed with the voice of an angel. This book underscores why O'Connor, having been treated so carelessly by the world, remains relevant, and it treats her with the reverence she so rightly deserves." —Shirley Manson

Allyson McCabe
Allyson McCabe

Allyson McCabe

Allyson McCabe is a writer, reporter, and producer whose work is often broadcast on NPR, and her byline appears in the New York Times, BBC Culture, Wired, and other publications.

Photo credit: Ebru Yildiz

Geoff Edgers
Geoff Edgers

Geoff Edgers

Geoff Edgers is the national arts reporter at The Washington Post and a former staff reporter for The Boston Globe. He’s the author of Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song that Changed American Music Forever as well as children’s books about The Beatles, Stan Lee and Julia Child (with Carlene Hempel) in Penguin’s Who Was series. He lives in Concord, MA.

Photo credit: Geoff Edgers

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