All Souls Essays

All Souls: A Family Story From Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald

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All Souls: A Family Story From Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald

By Micheal Patrick MacDonald. (Ballentine Books under The Random House Publishing Corporation, 1999, 266pp. $14.00)

Michael Patrick MacDonald saw hatred animated on a Friday in the early days of October. Some people were reading the newspaper in brightly lit kitchens. Some children were coloring with brightly hued crayons. Some fathers were getting into cars in front of their beautiful homes. But there were no crayons, bright kitchens, or fathers in nice cars on Dorchester Street in Southie that day. Only the cruelest manifestation of blind hatred. Michael Patrick MacDonald was an innocent child when he stood only feet away from a black man who was having the life…show more content…

But he also reveals the pain that Southie inflicted upon him, upon every one of Old Colony's residents. He tells us the story as if he is trying to explain away, rationalize, justify a father who goes out drinking, then comes home and beats his wife and children. In a ‘He was a good man underneath all of that rage' sort of fashion, he exposes Southie's grave and serious problems, all the while maintaining that it was "the best place in the whole world."

We tend to marginalize the poor, the destitute, the food stamp and welfare recipients among us. We like to pretend that they are not there, much like the residents of Southie liked to pretend that the violence and anger and tragedy in Southie weren't there. We like to try to compartmentalize this part of our own society, this very real set of people who still live in our towns. Who mourn their dead at our churches, who lower them into the ground in our cemeteries, who hand food stamps to the cashier at our grocery stores. We have all been guilty of it. How could we not be? How could we really grasp, realize, come to terms with, comprehend such an alien life? Michael Patrick MacDonald is our translator. He relays the past as Southie has written it on his heart. He hands it to us in a language we might better understand. MacDonald opens the door and invites us to sit down at his Southie dinner table. To lie on a mattress on the floor next to him and his brothers. To come

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All Souls: A Family Story From Southieis an autobiographical memoir written by Michael Patrick MacDonald and published by Beacon Press in September 1999. The writing recounts MacDonald's growing up in the Old Colony Housing Projects in South Boston, a neighborhood comprised of mostly white Irish Catholics. The book introduces many of the people that were in Macdonald's life, including his brothers and sisters, his mother Helen King, and Whitey Bulger, an FBI informant who doubled as a gangster and introduced drugs into the neighborhood.

Because of the way that MacDonald narrates the story, putting a positive attitude towards the subject despite all of the bad that has happened, the book has won a number of awards and received high praise from critcs upon its release. It received a New England Literary Lights Award, the Myers Outstanding Book Award, which is administered by the Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, and an American Book Award, among many others.

Michael Patrick MacDonald has said that he wrote this book to explain to readers what life is like in places that resemble where he grew up. He explains the hard nature of the neighborhood, and the horrible things that happen there and that it does to people. The novel strikes an emotional chord among readers through the way nothing is held back, resulting in a powerful, blunt read that will continue to be relevant for years to come.

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