Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion, discussed "Finding Peace and Justice in Southie," at the annual Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture on October 16th in the Janet M. Daley Library Lecture Hall.
MacDonald grew up in South Boston's Old Colony housing project. After losing four siblings and seeing his generation decimated by poverty, crime and addiction in the years following Boston's busing riots, he became a leading Boston activist, helping to launch many antiviolence initiatives, including gun-buyback programs.
During the lecture, MacDonald read selections from both of his books, including an excerpt from Easter Rising that he considered a turning point in his life and his battle with post-traumatic stress, a session with an empathic therapist in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. He also offered insight into the aftermath of writing All Souls and the mixed feelings the exposition created in his hometown. Some were angry, some were proud, but mostly, people wanted to know, "How did you get out?" MacDonald explained. The question was the driving force for writing Easter Rising. While the beginning of the book focuses on how he separated himself from everything that he came from, the second half of the story is about returning to "Southie," and why "getting out" wasn't his ultimate goal.
"It wasn't the end of 'Good Will Hunting' where he gets in a car and drives to California and that's the end of Southie," MacDonald said. "This stuff doesn't go away, no matter how far you run. So for me, it wasn't so much about getting out, it was about stepping outside of the chaos and then being able to return home to embrace every single thing that I come from, and to use it to transform myself and any community that I'm living in. To do community work, to do social change work, using all those experiences I have had.
"It's about the ability to work with some of the best qualities to change some of the worst qualities of the place that you come from. It isn't just about Southie, it's about any community that I find myself in, whether I am living there or working there or speaking there."
MacDonald won the American Book Award in 2000, and has written numerous essays for the Boston Globe Op-Ed Page and has completed the screenplay of All Souls for director Ron Shelton. He is currently Author-in-Residence at Northeastern University and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. He continues to work for social change nationally, collaborating with survivor families and young people.
The Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series is an annual lecture series established by Dr. Raymond Hakim in honor of his late wife, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim '70. A sociology major at Emmanuel, Catherine studied under longtime sociology professor Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND, who left an especially indelible mark on her student experience. The lecture series commemorates Catherine's life, her fondness for Emmanuel, and the relationships she formed at the College and continued to maintain throughout her life. The Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series is sponsored by the Department of Sociology. Lectures focus on issues of sociology, social justice and public policy on the local, national and international levels.