Kicking the Sky-Anthony De Sa
It was 1977 when a shoeshine boy, Emanuel Jaques, was brutally murdered in Toronto. In the aftermath of the crime, twelve-year-old Antonio Rebelo explores his neighborhood’s dark garages and labyrinthine back alleys along with his rapscallion friends. As the media unravels the truth behind the Shoeshine Boy murder, Antonio sees his immigrant family--and his Portuguese neighborhood--with new eyes, becoming aware of the frightening reality that no one is really taking care of him. So intent are his parents and his neighbors on keeping the old traditions alive that they act as if they still live in a small village, not in a big city that puts their kids in the kind of danger they would not dare imagine.
This is a tragic story-hard to read-full of homophobia, domestic violence, and the dark side of sex. The Portuguese enclave in Toronto (and elsewhere, the Newark community is the one I'm familiar with) is a community united by the old country and a sense of being different, poorer, than the country they've settled in. De Sa evokes the conservatism of such a community excellently. The church pervading the daily lives locking the inhabitants into unhappy marriages full of domestic violence, rampant homophobia, and xenophobia. The tying of the coming of age of Antonio to the traumatic death of the shoeshine boy (a historical event) is brilliantly handled. He works as an allegory for the loss of innocence of the 1970s. All the sharp edges of crime and pedophilia are softened by Antonio's ceaseless curiosity. This is a community trauma as experienced by an adolescent whose parents want to protect him. He learns more than he should and understands little of what he does know and that makes it seem grippingly real. It was a really impressive novel that walks the line of too hard to read and light hearted. There's dark humor mixed in with the tragic while dealing with so many issues.