Book Review: We are not defined by our race, or creed, but by the choices we make.

Susan Keefe | Midwest Book Review
June 2020

We are not defined by our race, or creed, but by the choices we make.
It is a sad fact of life that racial prejudice is still with us, and comes in many forms. So many lives have been lost or ruined because of it, and the saddest thing of all is that it is so silly, we are all the same, no matter our race, color, or creed

The author, M. P. Murphy, has used his life experiences to write this extremely thought-provoking story in which he takes his readers back in time to Boston in the late 1980’s, and early 1990’s.

There are two protagonists, from totally different backgrounds, and we discover how the decisions they made during their formative years affected their future in ways they could never have imagined.

It begins with a radical plan being implemented at the Cathedral High School. What was radical about this program? Well, it was to take in one hundred black students from the surrounding area and enroll them into the ‘white’ school.

The Cathedral High School was a Catholic school situated in the ‘Irish’ South Boston area, and the Headmaster, Father Lydon, was very keen on the plan, however the existing students and parents at the school are unhappy about it. Patrick mother is one of them, she works hard, pays his tuition fees, and is very proud of her Irish heritage, drumming it into Patrick at every possibility.

It is quite sad really, because the Irish of Boston, when they arrived after fleeing the potato famine in Ireland had life very hard too. No one wanted to employ them, they were considered the lowest of the low. However despite this, through hard work they pulled themselves up, and subsequent generations built a prosperous community, were accepted, became pillars of society, and felt themselves entitled to a good life. However, just a few generations on, they themselves, are prejudice towards the ‘black’ people who live in Boston, on the other side of the Neighborhood Lines.

Enter Nate, he is black, like Patrick’s mother his mom works very hard, is loved and respected in the community and at church, and encourages Nate to be diligent in his studies and to keep out of trouble. He is one of the colored boys who are accepted into the Cathedral school.

On the first day of term, these two protagonists meet and slowly a friendship begins to form. Through his detailed writing of the lifestyles of both these boys, and their friends and families, the readers can clearly see how the two different, yet similar cultures exist alongside each other. However, throughout the book there is an undercurrent of the underworld, of gangs, violence, drug running and feuds, leading to twists of fate which will ultimately affect both boys and shape their destinies.

As one looks back over their life it is interesting to see the changes which occur, the lines which are set in place, can blur, and in time alter. Michael Patrick Murphy in this enlightening memoir has treated his readers to a fascinating insider’s glimpse of Boston during his formative years. Reading this brings home the fact that it is the decisions we make when we are young which can shape our futures, for the better, or worse… Highly recommended!