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ALL SOULS by Michael Patrick MacDonald

ALL SOULS

A Family Story from Southie

By Michael Patrick MacDonald

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8070-7212-5
Publisher: Beacon

An incendiary, moving book that startles on nearly every page. The notorious anti-busing riots of 1974 forever altered the insular working-class Irish community of South Boston, branding it indelibly as a dangerous, racist enclave. Anti-violence activist MacDonald grew up there and lost four out of eight siblings to violence in those dark times; his debut assesses both his family history, and related secret tales of class strife, bigotry, corruption, and vanished lives. MacDonald utilizes the classically Irish viewpoint of the stoic child to re-create a harsh arena of a 1970s ghetto and urban poverty. His single —Ma— felt blessed when a local politician secured her entrance to the majority-Irish Old Colony project, —the best place in the world”; once there, the MacDonalds had to prove their mettle against delinquents with shotguns, thus acquiring the patina of —craziness— necessary for survival. At first, the nuances of color seemed minor against a vividly rendered backdrop of economic difficulty and the depraved mainstreaming of hard drugs and street crime. Then came the riots; MacDonald’s surefooted (neither hardened nor sentimental) narrative takes us through the years of malaise and violence that followed, as politically connected gangsters, such as the notorious Whitey Bulger, expanded the area’s drug trade while violently enforcing a macho myth of silent Southie unity, itself built on the long-burnished notion that the white community was somehow —different— from such similarly working-class, embattled black areas as Roxbury. This explication of how such phenomena of white class-consciousness encouraged the wholesale deterioration of his neighborhood and contributed to the demise of some 250 young people is a devastating cultural indictment. 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. (Author tour)