A searing coming-of-age memoir set in an unfamiliar world: Irish South Boston. Michael MacDonald brings us a poor and intensely insular neighbourhood which its residents agree is the "best place in the world". Through his eyes we meet Michael's mini-skirted, accordion-playing mother who, by herself, cares for her ten children through a combination ...
A searing coming-of-age memoir set in an unfamiliar world: Irish South Boston. Michael MacDonald brings us a poor and intensely insular neighbourhood which its residents agree is the "best place in the world". Through his eyes we meet Michael's mini-skirted, accordion-playing mother who, by herself, cares for her ten children through a combination of high spirits and scam. Too soon "Southie" becomes a place controlled by a resident gangster, later revealed to be an informant for the FBI. It is a world primed for the escalation of class violence, and then, with sickening inevitability, of the racial violence that swirls around Boston's forced bussing in the 1970s. The violence spills into the MacDonald family, so that within a few years four of Michael's siblings lose their lives to drugs and organized crime. All but destroyed by grief and the Southie code that doesn't allow him to feel it, MacDonald gets out. His work as an anti-violence activist is the powerfully redemptive close to his story.
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Not the Hollywood version. As a Bostonian, I was ashamed by the busing riots of the 1970s because of the prejudice on display (remember the guy with the flag pole?). Without excusing the racism that fueled those protests, this story explains the broader context. The author's personal journey is inspiring.
Publishers Weekly, 1999-08-23 In this plainly written, powerful memoir, MacDonald, now 32, details not only his own story of growing up in Southie, Boston's Irish Catholic enclave, but examines the myriad ways in which the media and law enforcement agencies exploit marginalized working-class communities. MacDonald was one of nine children born (of several fathers) to his mother, Helen MacDonald, a colorful woman who played the accordion in local Irish pubs to supplement her welfare checks. Having grown up in the Old Colony housing project, he describes his neighbors' indigence and pride of place, as well as their blatant racism (in 1975 the anti-busing riots in Southie made national headlines) and their deep denial of the organized crime and entrenched drug culture that was destroying the youth and social fabric. MacDonald's account is filled with vivid episodes: of his brother Davey's horrific incarceration in Mass Mental and ultimate suicide; of the time Helen took her older kids to the hospital, where her current lover was a patient, to beat him up after he denied he was the father of the child she was carrying; of the murder of his brother Frankie by his compatriots after the police shot him in an armored-car robbery. But perhaps most shocking is the accusation that the FBI was paying Southie's leading gangster, Whitey Bulger, as an informant although they knew he was the neighborhood kingpin. MacDonald, who now works on multiracial social projects in Boston, does not excuse Southie's racism, but he paints a frightening portrait of a community under intense economic and social stress, issuing a forceful plea for understanding and justice. Agent, Palmer and Dodge. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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