Rolling Pennies in the Dark: A Memoir with a Message

( 6 )

Overview

This very personal memoir is both heartbreaking and highly inspirational. In it, Douglas MacKinnon weaves his astounding story as a desperately poor child and his triumphant transition from abject squalor to White House writer who now has the political influence to change the system—especially as it affects children.

With humor, compassion, faith, and brutal honesty, Douglas MacKinnon writes eloquently of the pain of being unloved and neglected, and of his victorious struggle to...

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Rolling Pennies in the Dark: A Memoir with a Message

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Overview

This very personal memoir is both heartbreaking and highly inspirational. In it, Douglas MacKinnon weaves his astounding story as a desperately poor child and his triumphant transition from abject squalor to White House writer who now has the political influence to change the system—especially as it affects children.

With humor, compassion, faith, and brutal honesty, Douglas MacKinnon writes eloquently of the pain of being unloved and neglected, and of his victorious struggle to overcome his past. But this book is more than the story of one man’s personal journey; it is a memoir with a message. Through this message, the author not only inspires readers to move beyond their own difficulties, he also calls both political parties to task for their shameful neglect of tens of millions of Americans. You’ll be riveted to the story, moved to compassion, and inspired to see the world through new eyes.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Dole
"This deeply moving and inspirational story is supported by a foundation of faith, compassion, and personal responsibility."
David Langworthy
"The male version of The Glass Castle. Harrowing, shocking, and relevant to everyone."
Marty Martin
"MacKinnon has walked the walk when called upon and his real-life experience makes for a compelling book that will speak to countless people going through tough times."
From the Publisher
"This deeply moving and inspirational story is supported by a foundation of faith, compassion, and personal responsibility."

"The male version of The Glass Castle. Harrowing, shocking, and relevant to everyone."

"MacKinnon has walked the walk when called upon and his real-life experience makes for a compelling book that will speak to countless people going through tough times."

Publishers Weekly
MacKinnon, a former Pentagon official and Director of Communications for Senator Bob Dole, grew up abysmally poor in a rough Boston neighborhood, literally having to roll pennies in the dark with his mother in order to pay for food and medicine for his baby sister. In spite of his alcoholic and often absent parents, MacKinnon persevered and flourished, using his "PhD in street smarts," innate intelligence, and a love of science and writing to propel himself forward. "I went through and survived something the vast majority of Americans will never know, understand, or defeat. And because of that...I've got a wealth of knowledge on poverty, crime, and human nature that most in politics...or life...will never have." Detailing his many struggles and triumphs, MacKinnon's is not just a rags-to-riches story-as promised by the title, MacKinnon has a message: "'We are our brother's keeper'...too many of us turn our back on those in need as we dash into our homes and lock the doors." At times as dark as a film-noir and at others surprisingly tender, MacKinnon's story is consistently riveting and inspiring.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Political writer and former White House and Pentagon official MacKinnon (Vengeance is Mine, 2010) recounts his poor childhood with alcoholic parents in a forceful commentary about poverty. At age six, the author saved his parents from a candle fire (the electricity was, typically, cut off) by tossing a toy bucket of water over the burning mattress on which they lay in an alcohol-induced coma. At eight, he and his siblings were abandoned in a car to succumb to hypothermia while his parents waited out the snowstorm in a bar. By nine, he ducked a shooting rampage by his mother; by 13, he had been stabbed in a gang fight; by 17, his family had been evicted more than 30 times. MacKinnon addresses his pain in a raw voice, with little forgiveness for his criminally neglectful parents. The author eventually fought his way out of poverty and into college, crediting intervening relatives, supportive teachers, love of reading and writing, faith and determination to save his siblings and himself. MacKinnon takes great pride in the fact that he never fell into a life of crime because of his roots and has no sympathy for those who have, a view that dominates later chapters. As a writer for the Reagan White House and director of communications for Bob Dole, MacKinnon hit his stride and honed his stance on poverty. For him, poverty is a moral issue that can only be solved by a collective commitment by legislators to truly understand the experience. The "message" portion of the book would be stronger if he offered a more specific plan for making this happen, and the vitriol he engages in while condemning enemies of the poor (the liberal media and teachers unions) is off-putting. The emotionally and politically charged writing is repetitive and lacks the sophistication and poetry of similar childhood horror stories by Mary Karr and Jeannette Walls. MacKinnon's powerful example is consistently fueled by his desire to help others and by his laudable perspective that individuals must make use of their gifts despite the odds. A combative addition to the literature of the war on poverty.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451607895
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 561,263
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas MacKinnon served in the White House as a writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and afterwards in a joint command at the Pentagon, where he had a top secret government clearance. He is a regular contributor to several major newspapers. To date, he has published more than 600 columns in every major paper in the country—including Investor’s Business Daily, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Chicago Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, The Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Examiner—and makes frequent appearances on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. He is the author of a memoir, Rolling Pennies in the Dark.

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Read an Excerpt

1

A Stabbing Precedes the Gunfire

It really does hurt to get stabbed.

I had just landed a punch to the side of a rival’s head. As he yelped in pain and fell out of the way, I felt a hand grab me by the right shoulder and spin me completely around. A millisecond after completing the turn, I saw a knife blade arching up toward my midsection. I instinctively turned sideways to shield my stomach and chest. While successfully protecting those vital areas, I was not able to avoid the force of the blade.

The tip of the switchblade, which entered the minuscule muscle of my skinny thirteen-year-old bicep, immediately struck calcium. A white haze of pain filled my eyes, as my lungs sucked in enough oxygen to let out an earsplitting scream.

The reason I got stabbed in the first place was that some of my friends and I were involved in an old-fashioned West Side Story–type gang fight. Back in the day, in my never-dull corner of the Dorchester section of Boston, it was not about what neighborhood you were from but which street you lived on. Some friends and I met up with some territorial individuals from a rival street, and before anyone knew what was happening, it was on.

Since this was circa 1969, and we weren’t yet smart enough to call ourselves a “crew” and carry “nines” or “Mac-10s,” this instant and fierce disagreement was waged with pipes, boards, fists, and the occasional knife. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get hit with a board, pipe, or fist.

I got stabbed. I was the victim of a very violent crime at a very early age. But when I thought about that episode a few months later, I knew that between myself and the older kid who stabbed me—he was sixteen and already a career criminal—I was, by far, the more fortunate. I say that for three reasons.

First, simply and most important, I was able to spin my stomach and chest away from the blade and take the strike in the arm. This particular rival was not trying to frighten me or wound me. He meant to kill me.

Second, about one second after I was stabbed, one of my buddies caved in this guy’s chest with a five-pound cobblestone rock. The collision between rock and human body was not pleasant. While I never got all the details, I think the contact was enough to break a bone or two and send him to Boston City Hospital. A facility that—at least at that time—made medieval practitioners of the dark arts look advanced by comparison. Having been to that alleged center of healing a few times already in my young life, I knew better than to go back—even if blood was pouring out of a large hole in my tiny arm.

Ignorance is sometimes a wonderful thing. Having never been stabbed before, I did not know enough to assign the knife wound the importance it deserved. To me, it was no big deal. Like everything else in my life, I’d just fix it myself.

I just took my shirt off, wrapped it around the dripping hole in my arm, ran the few blocks back to our apartment, went into the bathroom, unwrapped the now blood-soaked shirt, and poured some of my father’s rubbing alcohol directly into the cut.

Mistake.

My sister, who was sitting outside at the time, told me you could hear my scream several streets away. Fortunately, my parents, who were already in a vodka-induced coma in their bedroom, never heard a thing. After screaming from the shock of the alcohol and almost passing out on the bathroom floor from a pain that seemed much worse than the actual stabbing, I pinched the cut closed as tight as I could, put some folded toilet paper over it, and then used a couple of feet of white hockey tape to secure my battlefield bandage in place. While archaic, I still felt it was better than whatever treatment my attacker eventually received in that dungeon of a hospital.

The third reason I felt I was the luckier of the two of us was that not long after this guy was discharged from Boston City and recovered, I was told he was found shot in a local park.

His demise is what my friends and I fought off almost every single day as we trolled the streets and alleys, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of those determined to hurt us.

As I tried to recover from the physical and mental pain of my knife wound, the only things I had going for me at the time were a tremendous chip on my shoulder—which pertained to just about everyone—some inherited natural intelligence, and a PhD in street smarts. I had no intention of giving anyone the satisfaction of seeing me fail.

I was born in a hospital in Dorchester, Massachusetts. At the time, Dorchester was an ultratough, blue-collar section of Boston, filled with mostly wonderful, hardworking people; it’s a place I will always be proud to call home.

Dorchester was never the problem. Poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness were the problems; and they were manufactured by two people—and two people only—our “parents,” John Mac Kinnon and Marie Carmel Mac Kinnon. These two individuals were not only full-blown alcoholics, but complete hedonists who saw their three emaciated and damaged children as obstacles to be crushed on their egocentric path to self-destruction.

By the time I was seventeen, our family had moved a total of thirty-four times. For those of you who, like me, are not fond of math, that’s an average of once every six months. None of the moves were voluntary—some, in fact, were quite disturbing and violent.

© 2012 Douglas MacKinnon

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Table of Contents

Part 1 A Memoir 1. A Stabbing Precedes the Gunfire 3

2 A Two-Year-Old's Introduction to Poverty 7

3 Me, Baby Jesus, and My First Crime 9

4 In Desperate Search of Gold at the End of the Rainbow 13

5 Crashing a School Bus for My Sister 16

6 A Grandmother's Love and a Peek at Normalcy 21

7 Sunday Dinners and My Escape from the Kids' Table 25

8 My Little Project and the Effects of Too Much Alcohol 28

9 JFK's Assassination and an Eviction 30

10 A Book Provides Escape While Planting a Seed 34

11 Poor Public Schools for Me… Please 37

12 A Nine-Year-Old Fires a Weapon in Self-Defense 41

13 Ducking Bullets Fired by Our Mom 44

14 A Gift Makes a Difference 51

15 The Caped Crusader Saves Our Lives 55

16 Shining Shoes, Darts, and the She-Beast 58

17 The Broken Bunch 70

18 Insane Friends and Armed Robbery 72

19 The Wrong Side of Crime and Attempted Murder 78

20 Don't Excuse the Inexcusable 84

21 A Minority Greeting and a Beating 91

22 Rolling Pennies in the Dark 94

23 The Deception That Gave Me a Chance 99

24 Writing a Novel at Seventeen 103

25 The Square Peg in the Round Hole of College 106

26 A Bridge Too High 111

27 The Agency Offers an Out 114

28 A Campaign Door Leads to the White House 125

29 Shedding Tears with the President 132

30 John P. Kennedy Jr.-A Man and a Day to Remember 141

31 The Secret Service Thinks I'm a Threat 151

32 A Presidential Election Hangs in the Balance… and My Tiny Role in the Outcome 155

33 My Patrick 172

34 Am I Insane? 181

35 Breathe and Count for Something 184

36 WTP? 188

Part 2 A Message

1 Poverty Is Not Partisan 197

2 Poverty's Unsung Heroes 200

3 Poverty-A Ready-Made Excuse for the Weak of Mind and Faith 204

4 Ignorance and the Poor 209

5 Political Correctness and Affirmative Action-Enemies of the Poor 218

6 What's So Wrong with Hard Work? 221

7 Never Afraid of the Abyss 224

8 That's All… for Now 229

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    Buy this book

    The best and most touching book i ever read, this book teach us that not matter how difficult is always hoppe my respect for the autor . Sandra

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 16, 2012

    There is a lot of repetition by the author describing his being

    There is a lot of repetition by the author describing his being raised
    by ineffective and alcoholic parents. But, his going from zero in life
    to becoming a speechwriter in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush White
    Houses is fascinating. Also, you'll read why the Central Intelligence
    Agency asked him - as a 20-something - to come in to apply to work at
    the CIA !

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I struggled through this book as it could not keep my full atten

    I struggled through this book as it could not keep my full attention. Unfortunately there was a lot of repetition that I don't believe was for the purpose of emphasis.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    Prea chy

    The firstpart of the book was somewhat interesting but it ended up being a preachy right wing rant good for fox news followers

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

    Thanks for sharing , opening up about your life, I.'m sure this

    Thanks for sharing , opening up about your life, I.'m sure this will help others.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2012

    great reading

    I love reading this book, his story gets across easily, like you are there, almost seeing things happening.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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