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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie Paperback – November 1, 2007
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"His anecdotes have the searing power of a redeemed sinner's fiery sermon. His swift, conversational style sweeps you into his anger and sorrow. He is a born rabble-rouser whose emotional power numbs the reader's reason."—Charles Carberry, USA Today
"All Souls is a memoir filled with desperation and despair, but there is also hope in it . . . MacDonald's discovery of his vocation in neighborhood activism is a refreshing change from most memoirs, which so often . . . are largely concerned with describing an ascent to celebrityhood." —Julian Moynahan, New York Review of Books
"Michael Patrick MacDonald takes us on a heartbreaking tour of his South Boston family." —Frank McCourt, Irish America Magazine
"An incendiary, moving book that startles on nearly every page . . . MacDonald's nimble prose and detailed recall of grim times long past make for luminous reading; his hard-won conception of how ghettoized poverty spawns localized violence, and the dignity he brings to lives snuffed out in chaos, gives All Souls a moral urgency usually lacking in current memoir or crime prose. A remarkable work." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"All Souls leavens tragedy with dashes of humor but preserves the heartbreaking details."—Brent Staples, New York Times Book Review
"If you were charmed by Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes but wished at times the author would have got out of the way of his own beguiling style, try All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, Michael Patrick MacDonald's guileless and powerful memoir of precarious life and early death in Boston's Irish ghetto."—R. Z. Sheppard, Time
"A must read . . . All Souls is poised to become one of the most significant Irish American books of the era."—Irish Edition
"MacDonald has a gift for narrative, an eye for social detail, and a voice of earned authenticity."—Jack Beatty, Author of The Rascal
About the Author
Michael Patrick MacDonald grew up in South Boston’s Old Colony housing project. After losing four siblings and seeing his generation decimated by poverty, crime, and addiction, he became a leading Boston activist, helping launch many antiviolence initiatives, including gun-buyback programs. He continues to work for social change nationally, collaborating with survivor families and young people.
MacDonald won the American Book Award in 2000 and has written numerous essays for the Boston Globe Op-Ed Page. His national bestseller, All Souls, and his follow-up, Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion have been adopted by university curriculums across the country.
- Publisher : Beacon Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 296 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0807072133
- ISBN-13 : 978-0807072134
- Item Weight : 11.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.52 x 0.74 x 8.49 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #57,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The story starts out in the early 1970s, roughly 1974. I lived in greater Boston at this time. I moved there for work, excited to move to a college town, in the state that voted for George McGovern. Unfortunately, Boston was not just a college town. I had the wrong accent, and in business there were many Bostonians who treated me as an outsider, not to be trusted. That same distrust of outsiders pervades Southie.
The events of the day were very disturbing. Having campaigned for Tom Bradley (first black mayor of Los Angeles) a few years earlier, I was horrified by events in Boston. Louise Day Hicks, people shouting “Bus the n****** back to Africa,” and the stoning of school buses were all beyond my comprehension.
Although I witnessed racist parades in my neighborhood on Massachusetts Avenue, I only saw the events in Southie in the news, either the Boston Globe or WBZ. I had two colleagues at work, Joe and Michael, both from Southie, who had advised me not to go there without one of them to escort me. Hearing of the racial conflict in Southie, I envisioned working class whites against black kids, when in fact it was poor whites, many on welfare, resisting integration with black kids of similar or better economic status.
Welfare mothers, having more babies by different fathers; unemployed alcoholic men hanging out on the street with a paper bag; dropouts; shoplifting and theft and gangs. That was a stereotype I had heard used to describe life in the ghetto. That same stereotype turns out to describe perfectly the white population of the housing projects in Southie, as described by the author.
Early on, I read the smattering of negative reviews. I attributed some of them to being judgmental about the people in the book, including the author’s single mother, criminal siblings, and racist neighbors. Still, I enjoyed getting the author’s perspective, as the author is writing about his experiences as a child. But, as the book progressed I found myself losing interest. First, I was having trouble keeping track of all the characters, many of whom are siblings, but many are not. I should have started a list when I began reading the book. Second, I began to feel as if I were stuck in a waiting room, forced to watch The Jerry Springer Show. I didn’t think very highly of these people when I lived in Boston, and a more intimate portrayal does not help. In fact, they’re more dysfunctional than I thought.
Boston has changed (and so has Southie), but the time I lived there is chronicled in this book. It was a year that persuaded me that I fit better in Los Angeles.
Bottom line: I would grab a tablet to write down the names of all the characters as they appear, open Google Maps to South Boston, at the intersection of 8th Street and Dorchester Street (not Dorchester Avenue), and the traffic circle where Old Colony meets Columbia and Preble. Rotary Liquors is what was once the HQ for Whitey Bulger’s criminal enterprise. Read the book for as long as it holds your interest. If you can get through the litany of death and disaster in the middle, the story gains an adult perspective and once again commands attention.
It is like the ago old saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same".
It is a good read, if you can deal with all the hardship and struggle.
I like real stories about real people. The MacDonald family and their saga are about as real as it gets.
Although the South Boston Bulger gangster phenomenon serves as a Greek chorus to the times, this passionate family story itself totally overshadows that scourge and underscores the unending challenges, desperation, and heartache of living poor in America.
Adjust the color lens and, historically, you witness how political "saviors" prey on the vulnerabilities of the innocent and uninformed...all in the name of making America great again.
All Souls takes place in the late 70's when the issue of busing and desegregation dominated Boston as well as national headlines. The reputation of the "hub of the educational universe", as an overtly racist enclave, intensified greatly at that time and still lingers today.
This worthwhile novel, itself, is actually timeless in its themes of family crisis, intervention, and survival.
All Souls is an excellent vehicle to use in high school and college classrooms to encourage discussions on the impact of racism and classicism in today's America and the future implications of its continued course.
Definitely a thumbs up selection!
Top reviews from other countries
Michael Patrick MacDonald lets us know, against the run of descriptions of life in Boston, what it was like to grow up in poverty and under the control of drug gangsters.
He showed also how brave families fought against it.
He is proof of how, despite multiple disadvantages, a person of strength and character can come through.
I find it relevant in Northern ireland today where there are similar problems, particularly in loyalist communities, and where there are those who are keeping good people down, both by starting youngsters on drugs and making money from them and by claiming that they are better thant others - our great wee country mentality.
In the meantime the poor are funding the lifestyles of those who hold them down and the "leaders" are apparently held in esteem by our authorities, police and government. just as in South Boston.