MacDonald, All Souls: A Family Story from
will discuss All Souls: A Family Story From Southie on Tuesday, May 5th. As usual there will be a twenty-question quiz
that day on the reading.
following study questions will help you prepare for the quiz and, more
importantly, think about the issues that MacDonald brings up in his family’s
story. The quiz questions will be drawn directly from these study questions.
- Why were most kids
in the Columbia Point projects born at home?
- What kinds of
adjectives best describe Helen? How
did she exhibit her pride in herself, her family, and her people? What were her performing talents?
- Who always had a
“shitbox” and what does the term refer to?
- What is the only
thing Helen kept from her relationship with Bob King?
- What is the
problem the family faces whenever the social worker comes around?
- What is Mass
Mental? Who ended up there and
- In the fears of
the residents of Southie, where will bad news
eventually end up?
- How were the MacDonalds welcomed into the neighborhood of Old
Colony? How do they earn everyone’s
- How did Southies distinguish themselves physically from other
- What did
pre-teens do for fun in Southie?
- What was the
worst thing you could be in Southie?
- What did Michael
do to get rid of cockroaches?
- What did people
boycott during National Boycott Day?
- What was ironic
about the adoption of “Fight the Power” as the song of protest for Southie?
- How did forced
busing affect many of Southie’s white teenagers?
- How did Helen
settle scores with Coley in the hospital and Chickie
on the stoop?
- How did life
change for the MacDonalds after Seamus was
- Who was Whitey Bulger? What
did he supposedly do for Southie?
- Why were
strangers poking their heads into Kevin’s window?
- How does Michael get involved in the drug
- How did Helen
react to being shot? How did she
deal with the shooter?
- What tragic event did Davey and Kathy have
- What happened to all of Kathy’s friends
who came to see her in the hospital?
- How did Frankie get mixed up in the armed
- How did Kevin end
up at Bridgewater
- How was Whitey
able to elude the police? How did
he stay on good terms with people in Southie?
- What effect did the Community Disorders
Unit have on race relations in Southie? Why?
- Why was Michael so angry that Whitey had
snitched? Who else was to blame for
all the problems in Southie?
- How would you
describe the case against Stevie?
Why was it so hard to get justice?
- Why was Michael
so happy at Grandpa’s funeral?
- What role does
silence play in the book? Is
silence good or bad in the context of life in Southie?
- The ancient Greeks defined “tragedy” as a good man brought to a bad
end by the very qualities that allowed him to achieve greatness in the
first place. How might one argue
that this definition of “tragedy” fits the lives of several of Robert
MacDonald’s siblings and the story of Southie
- Think about motherhood
as it is portrayed in the book.
What distinguishes “Ma” (Helen) in the story? How is she universal and yet
unique? How does she compare to
Anne Moody’s mother or Russell Baker’s mother?
- Often our society
conflates the issues of race and poverty: “Black and Latino people are
poor; white people are middle class or wealthy.” How does All Souls complicate the issue of poverty?
After reading this book, why do you think some people born into poverty
remain poor while others escape poverty?
- What were the myths the residents of Southie
told themselves about their neighborhood?
What were the myths that outsiders (white liberals, the media,
social activists) told about the neighborhood?
- How did Whitey Bulger exploit the
residents of Southie by appealing to the very
values that many residents believed made their neighborhood special?
- MacDonald remarks that if you stand your ground, you end up going
nowhere. Why is this observation especially relevant when examining the
teen culture of Southie?
- Why did the white residents of Southie
hate the white liberals? Why did
the liberals’ dismissal of Southie residents as
“racists” (particularly during the busing crisis) tell only part of the
- How did the absence of fathers in Southie
shape the culture of the neighborhood?