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Books

Point St. Charles is former 'Canada's toughest neighborhood' in new book

Posted by Luc / November 22, 2011

20111120_mmpix_withaclosedfist.jpgJust three shorts month ago I moved to Point St. Charles, the mysterious neighbourhood bordering Verdun and St. Henri. I say mysterious because as a non-Montreal native, I literally knew nothing about the area (other than the rent is insanely cheap, hence my decision to move there). After some Wikipedia articles and some bike rides, I discovered The Point to be a lot like it's neighbouring boroughs; very pretty, very quiet, and sometimes kind of unsafe looking.

In comes the announcement for a book launch on my RSS feed for Kathy Dobson's first novel, With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada's toughest neighbourhood, a book promising to details life in The Point back in it's blue collar Irish class days. Eager to learn about my new surroundings, I gave it a shot.

Written from her own 8-year-old perspective (and obviously based on what she experienced growing up), Dobson eases into her family's struggles growing up in Point St. Charles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, all while emphasizing the area's tough interior. Among the gang fights, the blatant language-based racism, and the extreme poverty, Dobson gives a second hand account about how her mother Eileen fought for the rights and privileges of her fellow citizens (despite some of them's reluctance to accept it).

Her mom's efforts lead to Dobson and two of her sisters (they are a family of 6 girls, in total) attending 'rich schools' in Westmount in an attempt to provide kids from Point St. Charles with the same education as the upper public middle class. The results, needless to say, are somewhat hilarious but generally awful, as Dobson tries to fit in with kids that are er...not as rough around the edges as she is. The book also details the characters making up Dobson's family, from her cranky conservative grandmother to Dobson's often-absent father, the latter of which seems like the best and worst person in the world at times.

In all, the book is a great first person account of what life in The Point was like in the 1960s, and very enlightening for anyone who did not grow up in the Canadian lower class. It sheds light on why my new neighbourhood doesn't seem all peaches and cream, but has a very good-hearted history that may have paved the way for lower class rights in Quebec and Canada.

For some far better insight, check out what The Gazette had to say.

And if you're interested, heck out Kathy Dobson's web site (also where you can purchase the book)

Header photo courtesy of Kathy Dobson's website.

Discussion

20 Comments

Kathy Dobson / December 28, 2011 at 09:42 am
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Hello Luc,

Thanks for writing about my book. And more importantly, welcome to Point St. Charles! I hope you're enjoying your new neighbourhood :)

Kathy Dobson
richard korejwo / October 25, 2012 at 09:10 am
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I do not know if i have to read this book .I lived it in Point St Charles from the years 1964 to 1988,from the streets,lanes and people of the time,from selling 13 beer(delivered to your door) for $2.40 or getting into the Regie on wellington st for hard liquour at the age of 12.Yes all true,,,,,Was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life.....and possibly some of the worst.All in all I learned to love it all and see nothing.
It did not kill me but it did make me stronger and wiser than that of a university education all because it made a survivor of me in a mean and ugly world,
BillS / November 19, 2012 at 11:57 am
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I just stumbled across this and found it interesting. I was born in the Pointe in 1952 and lived there until I married in 1975. I remember it fondly; the friendships, the fights, the action on "firecracker night", the Callme Uncle readio shows from the Boys and Girls club (which is now a "Y). Walking back and forth between Congregation Street and Lorne School was always fun; twice a day, 5-days per week. The book sounds interesting and I'll look for a copy; who knows, it may even job some old memories.
Denis Chernyshov / March 21, 2013 at 07:58 pm
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I went to Riverside School, about 1955 or '56 which I see is now a park, then walked from Ash Avenue to Lorne School . It was fine. My parents ran a "handy " store on Ash.
My favorite memories were playing buck buck at the Boys and Girls club,and hopping cars
Milk was still delivered by horse in the 50's Imthink, but I could be waxing nostalgic. Oh yes, The Gump was from the Pointe. Halloween was the greatest.
Once in the alley between Ash and Charon some filthy Guinies tried to beat me up, luckily my dog Rex was with me, and bit them and scared them shitless. As they fled, they threatened to have him killed by the cops. I 'd never seen Rex behave like that. He took care of me. Boy, I loved that dog.
I remember somenames, Gearies, Moorcroft, Rogos, Ostapchuks,
I remember lovely Tamara on Charon. It was good.
I live in the States now.
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