MacDonald, Michael Patrick 1966-
MacDONALD, Michael Patrick 1966-
Born 1966, in Boston, MA; mother's name Helen.
Home—Boston, MA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108.
Author and activist. Founder of South Boston Vigil Group; cofounder of Boston's gun-buyback program. Lecturer, writer, and screenwriter.
American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 2000, for All Souls: A Family Story from Southie; New England Literary Lights Award; MacDowell Colony fellowship; Bellagio fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation.
All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1999.
Contributor to Tales out of School, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2000; Remembrances of a Catholic Childhood, Beacon Press, 2000; When Race BEcomes Real, Lawrence Hill, 2002; Dream Me Home Safely, Houghton Mifflin, (Boston, MA), 2003; and The Good City: Writers Explore Twenty-first-Century Boston, edited by Emily Hiestand and Ande Zellman, Beacon Press, 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A memoir and sequel to All Souls, for Houghton Mifflin, 2006, "dealing with the impact of trauma on teen years, and on resiliency."
Michael Patrick MacDonald's memoir All Souls: A Family Story from Southie describes his experiences growing up in a South Boston housing project, and of the racial and economic divides that existed there. "In All Souls," noted Boston Phoenix contributor Sarah McNaught, "MacDonald describes a South Boston we're not used to hearing about: a neighborhood devastated by drugs, organized crime, and extreme poverty. A neighborhood unrecognizable if you're used to thinking about Southie as a tight-knit working-class enclave ruled by strong family values."
MacDonald was raised by his mother, Helen, who played accordion and sang in bars to supplement her welfare check. The MacDonalds lived in Old Colony, a violent, crime-ridden housing project in South Boston, an area composed primarily of poor Irish Catholics. Three of MacDonald's brothers died violently before they reached the age of twenty-four; his sister suffered brain damage in a fall after a drug-related argument. MacDonald connects much of the tragedy that infused the lives of Southie families with James J. "Whitey" Bulger, the brother of a Massachusetts state senator as well as an organized crime boss who MacDonald says was a paid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The suicides and deaths in Southie were, as MacDonald puts it, financed by an agency of the federal government," Andrew M. Greeley observed in America.
South Boston was also the scene of notorious race riots during the mid-1970s. Under a controversial desegregation plan, black children from nearby Roxbury were bused into white South Boston, according to American Prospect contributor David L. Kirp, who stated "the result was nightmarish, mixing the 'haveleasts' of both races while sparing the middle class, and turning equality into a numbers game. Still, the viciousness or the reaction in South Boston—blood on the streets, beatings delivered to the tune of the Isley Brothers' 'Fight the Power,' signs 'reading KKK,' and politicians turned boycott-promoting demagogues—was reminiscent of diehard Dixie. And when public housing officials tried to slip black families into the Old Colony projects, violence flared up again." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed that MacDonald "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." Greeley wrote that "MacDonald's story sears the soul. It also raises the question of why Southie is always the locale for elite Boston's social experiments in which poor whites and poor blacks are pitted against one another by rich suburbanites."
All Souls received the American Book Award in 2000 and was highly praised by critics. "All Souls is the written equivalent of an Irish wake, where revelers dance and sing the dead person's praises," remarked Brent Staples in the New York Times Book Review. "In that same style, the book leavens tragedy with dashes of humor but preserves the heartbreaking details." In USA Today, Charles Carberry wrote that MacDonald's "anecdotes have the searing power of a redeemed sinner's fiery sermon. His swift, conversational style sweeps you into his anger and sorrow. He is a born rabble-rouser whose emotional power numbs the reader's reason."
MacDonald became an anti-violence activist, first in Roxbury, then in South Boston. He was instrumental in establishing Boston's gun-buyback program, and he founded the South Boston Vigil Group.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
MacDonald, Michael Patrick, All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1999.
America, November 6, 1999, Andrew M. Greeley, "Varieties of Religious Experience," review of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, p. 23.
American Prospect, February 26, 2001, David L. Kirp, review of All Souls, p. 41.
Boston Phoenix, October 14-21, 1999, Sarah McNaught, "No Place like Home: Michael Patrick MacDonald Talks about His New Book, All Souls, and Changing Times in South Boston."
Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2004, June Sawyer, review of The Good City: Writers Explore Twenty-first-Century Boston, p. 16.
Masschusetts Law Review, summer, 2001, Peter T. Elikann, review of All Souls, p. 32.
New Internationalist, September, 2000, review of All Souls, p. 31.
New York Review of Books, May 25, 2000, Julian Moynahan, review of All Souls, p. 51.
New York Times Book Review, Brent Staples, October 3, 1999, review of All Souls, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1999, review of All Souls, p. 38.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 3, 2000, review of All Souls, p. 3.
USA Today, November 9, 1999, Charles Carberry, review of All Souls, p. D5.