Last month I read All Souls, a book by Michael Patrick Macdonald about his life growing up in Southie, the Irish slums of South Boston. It is a powerfully written true story, and one of the most amazing things I've read in a long time. Some of the things that happen are just astounding... from a jar of ancient holy water breaking a three month coma to four of nine kids dying before they were 25.
This book completely dispells the racist myth that the terrible conditions of the modern american ghetto are a black phenomina. Not that race wasn't an issue. Bussing riots in the 70s were huge, and many kids stoped going to school reather than be bused to a "black" school, where they were bound to be beaten. Same thing went for black kids bussed to white schools.
It gave me a better picture of some of the things that I might be facing in moving into the city. I can't imagine a place being as bad as Southie, but somehow I'm sure it gets worse. The drugs, alcohol, violence, absense of fathers, gangs, Irish Mafia - it's all there and more.
And somehow, the people of Southie convinced themselves it was the best place in the world.