All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald
A breakaway bestseller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald’s Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. The anti-busing riots of 1974 forever changed Southie, Boston’s working class Irish community, branding it as a violent, racist enclave. Michael Patrick MacDonald grew up in Southie’s Old Colony housing project. He describes the way this world within a world felt to the troubled yet keenly gifted observer he was even as a child: “[as if] we were protected, as if the whole neighborhood was watching our backs for threats, watching for all the enemies we could never really define.”
Michael Patrick MacDonald is the author of the acclaimed bestsellers, All Souls: A Family Story From Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion. He has been awarded an American Book Award, a New England Literary Lights Award, and a fellowship at The Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study Center. MacDonald has written a number of essays and short stories, including "The Resurrection of Cornelius Larkin," an immigrant's tale written for the Dropkick Murphy's theme album: "Going Out In Style." He has recently completed the screenplay for All Souls and is working on his third non fiction book.
As an activist he has focused efforts on multi-cultural coalition building to reduce violence, and on promoting grassroots leadership from the community. He founded Gun Buyback programs & local support groups which gave voice to adult and youth survivors of poverty, violence, and the drug trade.
As a Public Speaker he addresses: "The Legacy of South Boston Crime Boss Whitey Bulger;" "Our Common Ground: Race & the Unspoken Issue of Class in America;" "Community Organizing to Reduce Violence and Substance Abuse;" "Giving Back: Transforming Community Difficulties into Opportunities for Leadership Development" and "Finding Your Voice: Helping Young People to Transform Trauma into Leadership."
MIchael Patrick MacDonald currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is Author-in-Residence at Northeastern University's Honors Program, where he teaches his curriculums: "Writing & Social Justice Issues" and "Conflict & Reconciliation."
All Souls: A Family Story from Southie is a memoir written by Michael Patrick Macdonald on his life growing up in Southie, Boston's Irish Catholic enclave, in a family with one mother and nine children. This memoir tells us of the ways in which both law enforcement and the media agencies exploited the marginalized working-class communities, the deep denial of the organized crime and drug culture, and the role of Whitey Bulger as both kingpin and FBI informant. The memoir is filled with the loss of four of Michael Patrick Macdonald’s siblings through various crimes and discrimination. Yet somehow even with all of the sadness and evil Michael Patrick Macdonald manages to make his memoir read not as depressing, but as an interesting telling of how the Irish assimilated to Boston from the perspective of a young boy. The book leads the reader though quite the emotional spectrum from grief and despair, to happiness and humor, and of course, some old fashion Irish wit is mixed in too.
I tend to find memoirs to often be boring unless they are on a person that I already know and yet I did not find this one to be boring in the least. All Souls: A Family Story from Southie just has a way of pulling you into the past and getting you interested in it. Prior to this book I had never really thought about the past in terms of how the people growing up during that time would. This book really helps you to see the 1970’s-1980’s from the perspective of someone living during that time. I feel like I learned more about the Irish-Catholics from this memoir than I ever did during history class. After reading this memoir I feel like it would be a great novel to make part of the history curriculum as, unlike the history books, it actually draws the reader into Michael Patrick Macdonald’s life while also providing factual information about the time period.
The people and settings in this book are written in a detailed fashion that allows the reader to create a vivid picture in their head as the events of the book unfold. The fact that the people in the book were/are people with real lives made it very difficult to read about the tragedies that unfold because, unlike a fiction book, the reader cannot think “that was really sad, but at least it did not happen to a real person”. Every scene and death is centered on a real person which adds a level of sadness to this memoir. I found it difficult to read about Davey's time in Mass Mental, Frankie’s murder, and Kathy’s accident. The most shocking part of the book for me was the belief that the FBI kept Whitey Bulger, neighborhood kingpin, as a paid FBI informant. I was horrified by the idea that the FBI was in part funding a kingpin knowingly; had they not known I would have understood, but to knowingly do it was nothing short of horrific to me.
After reading this memoir I would recommend it to anyone seeking to gain a better understanding of the Irish-Catholics, learn more about the time period, or anyone doing a reading/history project. I would also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning more about history from the perspective of someone who lived it.
***I was provided with a copy of this memoir for review purposes for my honest and unbiased review. These views are 100% my own and were not influenced by anything, but the product itself. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.