By: Antonio Michael Downing (CA)
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2021 SPEAKER'S BOOK AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 TORONTO BOOK AWARD
“[A] deeply moving memoir...[and] lyrical story.... Suffused with poetic prose that jumps off the page, this inspiring account sings.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Raised by his indomitable grandmother in the lush rainforest of southern Trinidad, Antonio Michael Downing, at age 11, is uprooted to Canada when she dies. He and his older brother are sent to live with his stern, evangelical Aunt Joan, in a tiny northern Ontario community where they are the only Black children in the town. In this wilderness, after a disappointing reunion with his birth parents, he begins his journey as an immigrant minority, using music and performance to dramatically transform himself.
He tries to flee his messy family life by morphing into a series of extravagant musical personalities: “Mic Dainjah,” a punk rock rapper, “Molasses,” a soul music crooner and finally “John Orpheus,” a gold chained, sequin- and leather-clad pop star. Yet, like his father and grandfather, he has become a “Saga Boy,” a Trinidadian playboy, addicted to escapism, attention, and sex. When the inevitable crash happens, he finds himself in a cold, stone jail cell, having become everything he was trying to escape. At the heart of his odyssey is the longing for a home. Richly evocative, Saga Boy is a heart-wrenching but uplifting story of a lonely immigrant boy who overcomes adversity and abandonment to reclaim his Black identity and embrace a rich heritage.