Loss of innocence

18 Jul

By the time I got to the University of Toronto, in 1984, Yonge Street had been cleaned up a bit. There were still skanky places, but, for the most part, the sex shops and  “massage parlors” had moved away. My friends and I felt safe enough walking up and down Yonge on  a friday night, just to watch all the people out for a night on the town.

In 1977, things were seedier and our summer was shattered by the murder of Emanuel Jaques, a 12-year old shoe shine boy from a Portuguese family. It brought to light the dark side of “Toronto the Good”. I was also 12 that summer my eyes were opened to a world from which my sheltered small town life had protected me.


In Kicking the Sky, Anthony De Sa takes us back to the summer of 1977 and shows us how the events affected the Portuguese community of Toronto and how another boy, Antonio Rebelo, had his eyes opened as he tries to make sense of Emanuel’s death while navigating the complicated road to manhood.

I listened to this story on CDs provided by Audiobook Jukebox. The eight CDs (9.75 hours)  are narrated by Tomas Marsh, who does a much better  job capturing the fragility of a boy on the cusp of adolescence that the narrator of the trailer does. His intonation manages to create a world of Portuguese immigrants in a culturally sensitive manner.

The story unfolds slowly, like a hot summer day, the tension building. The story does a great job balancing Antonio’s innocence against the backdrop of lies, danger, secrets and cruelty that surround him in the adult world.  Ultimately, this is a coming of age story. It is a difficult, sad, beautiful story, and yet, remains hopeful.




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