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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2001

    I Was Not Surprised

    If you've never met a white family like the McDonalds, this book is a must-read. If you have, you could probably take a pass. It's the classic man-bites-dog story. A white, Irish Catholic Boston single-parent welfare family, living in the projects? Imagine! The mother of this sorry family, Helen King, could easily have been the 'welfare queen' that Reagan beat us to death with in 1980. What he didn't say, was that ending welfare would have hurt whites more than to blacks, since, in sheer numbers, more whites are on welfare. But whites aren't automatically assumed to be on welfare, so they can blend in in small towns, suburbs and rural areas. As a rule, they're not in urban housing projects like the McDonalds were. As a black man who grew up middle class and has has met a wide range of people, I know that the welfare mentality knows no color. So this book's content wasn't a shock to me. What continues to amaze me is why certain people of every color make the choices that they do in partners. Why a woman like Helen King would have nine children by three ne'er-do-well men when it should have been plain to her that she could barely afford to take care of one on her own. Why she and millions of others in this free country, continue to elect and blindly follow 'leaders' who are only interested in lining their own pockets. And instead of playing the accordion in bars for change, why she didn't spend the time her family spent living in her father's house going to school and learning a skill so she could have gotten her kids off welfare!? And if she had wanted to, she could have done it much more easily than her black counterparts. White skin is a passport in this country. The smart whites use it. Those like Helen King cling to their 'ethnicity' like a ragged security blanket, forgetting that in the United States, it doesn't matter where in Europe they came from; white's white. Take an accent-reduction class, Anglicize your name, and move on up. Don't like it? Starve. And the best part is, if you're a really brainy white person, you can get to the top without changing your accent or your name. Sweet, huh? So my sympathies lay with the children in this book who don't know any other lifestyle, who think that a place where they're allowed to run around like wild animals and have unlimited access to drugs and guns is 'the best place in the world' and that anyone darker than a paper bag is beneath them. For their sakes, I can only hope that they are eventually exposed to people of color with lawns to mow and taxes to pay, and who live in fear of a family like the McDonalds moving onto the next block, let alone next door.

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Courage In Writing

    I just finished this book for my book club. I grew up on the North Shore of Boston, protected by the suburban lifestyle. We always heard about the stories from Southie. Only a half hour away from Boston my mother would NEVER let us venture into Boston alone. Still, living in the North Shore had its share of similarities. I grew up in an Irish Catholic town and although we didn't have the violence encountered in All Souls, we had the drugs and the intense racism. After leaving the area and traveling, I never really talked about the area I grew up in, I had grown to become embarresed about it because it was so, and it still, racist (openly) and over run by drugs now it seems. It seemed so ghetto to me, so uncultured and blue collared. I couldn't even imagine what it must have been like in Southie. And yet here I stand, embarressed to talk about the insignificant town I grew up in, and the problems I had there, while Michael is able to recount his whole life in Southie for the world to read. He has guts. I will still opt to remain anonymous. Courage, courage, courage.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2009

    Couldn't put it down but...

    Michael MacDonald has written a gripping story of poverty and family dysfunction. The book is a briskly paced "quick read" that makes excellent use of dialogue and grabs the reader with one tragedy after another. On the negative side, McDonald's descriptive powers are not strong. The look and feel of the Old Colony project and South Boston generally are not conjured very well. You don't smell the sea air or the exhaust fumes from Old Colony Ave. Also, the book lacks nuance. Less black and white thinking would have, at least in my opinion, made the book more truly interesting rather than just dramatic. MacDonald's thesis that suburban white liberals, gangsters, and politicians were the cause of his family's problems is very simplistic. Certainly mental illness was a bigger factor. Giving the book the title "All Souls" is misleading as religion seems to have played a minor role in the lives of the MacDonald family. The subtitle "A Family Story from Southie", too, is misleading. The family was messed up before they moved to "Southie." Even then, they just barely lived in South Boston since the Old Colony project is very near Dorchester rather than deep into S.B. One more thing -- as MacDonald himself points out it is important to note that his story is about POOR people, not working class or blue collar people. There is a big difference between the two. Many middle class suburbanites don't seem to know this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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