Frank McCourt, the former schoolteacher who gained literary stardom by recounting his unhappy childhood in Angela's Ashes, died today in New York of skin cancer, the New York Times reports. He was 78. The Brooklyn-born author grew up in Limerick and taught in New York public schools for 30 years before writing Ashes, which dazzled critics with its simple account of poverty—and sparked anger in Ireland, where McCourt was "denounced from hill, pulpit and barstool," he said.
McCourt's second memoir, 'Tis, received less euphoric reviews, but McCourt rallied with Teacher Man, an inquiry into education. As a teacher, McCourt liked students to write their own tests, sing Irish songs for inspiration, and pen poetry based on late notes. “I think there’s something about the Irish experience—that we had to have a sense of humor or die," McCourt said. Married twice, he is survived by his first wife and their daughter, the AP reports.