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Publisher's Summary

2021 Legislative Assembly of Ontario Speaker's Book Award

2021 Toronto Book Award

The triumph of Saga Boy is the triumph of Blackness everywhere - the irrepressible instinct for survival in a world where Blacks are prey." (Ian Williams, Giller Prize-winning author of Reproduction)

An enthralling, deeply personal account of a young immigrant's search for belonging and Black identity amid the long-lasting effects of cultural dislocation.

Antonio Michael Downing's memoir of creativity and transformation is a startling mash-up of memories and mythology, told in gripping, lyrical prose. Raised by his indomitable grandmother in the lush rainforest of southern Trinidad, Downing, at age 11, is uprooted to Canada when she dies. But to a very unusual part of Canada: he and his older brother are sent to live with his stern, evangelical Aunt Joan, in Wabigoon, a tiny northern Ontario community where they are the only Black children in the town. In this wilderness, he begins his journey as an immigrant minority, using music and performance to dramatically transform himself. At the heart of his odyssey is the longing for a home. He is re-united with his birth parents who he has known only through stories. But this proves disappointing: Al is a womanizing con man and drug addict, and Gloria, twice abandoned by Al, seems to regard her sons as cash machines. 

He tries to flee his messy family life by transforming 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. He has become everything he was trying to escape and must finally face himself. 

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.

©2020 Antonio Michael Downing (P)2020 Penguin Random House Canada

What the critics say

Shortlisted for the 2021 Speaker's Book Award

One of:

CBC's "Best Canadian Nonfiction of 2021"

Bustle's "The Most Anticipated Books of September 2021"

“[A] deeply moving memoir...[and] lyrical story.... Suffused with poetic prose that jumps off the page, this inspiring account sings.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)  

“Downing’s heart-wrenching memoir chronicles his saga of trying on and casting off many masks, learning the dimensions of the face through which he sees the world and the world sees him.” (BookPage

“Compelling...Saga Boy is an eloquent memoir about Antonio Michael Downing's experiences as an immigrant in a minority population; it centers his resilience." (Foreword Reviews, starred review) 

What listeners say about Saga Boy

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Entertaining and heartfelt

This book was a wonderful tale of growth, survival and forgiveness. I highly recommend the audio version, as the author reads it himself, complete with sweet Trinny accents and singing.

1 person found this helpful

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Loved this audiobook!

Loved it, loved it, loved it! The vulnerability and the resilience. Evokes many emotions , but totally worth it. The narration was a lot of fun, made it a really enjoyable audio book.

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Wonderful

This story is parallel to many Caribbean peoples experience as immigrants to Canada, but the revelation is the authors redemption. It left one feeling triumphant.

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Couldn’t put it down!

I inhaled this book! So deep, beautiful, heart breaking and inspiring! And beautiful narration to boot! I simply loved it!

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Saga Boy

Well told.
A great look into the trauma children can carry into adulthood and what that looks like.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The stories from Trinidad were very intriguing and the food talk had me stopping in Rexdale for doubles a couple times.
When Micheal gets to Canada things really got interesting for me as I we had similar lives, only slightly reversed, and more than some of Micheals insights hit home.

Someone at work mentioned this book. I impulse bought it for dog walks & WOW.
I highly recommend giving this a listen, no matter your background.

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Playin saga boy to hide the anxiety.

As a Trinidadian born immigrant, I could relate to so many parts of his story, down to the country boy living with his grandmother and passing for Presentation College. I left when Machel came in. It reminded me that no matter how long I've lived away, the island beats within, can't separate the Trini from the Canadian, more correctly, Torontonian. Maybe the future we seek is really the past we mourn. Excellent!

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Audiobook is a must listen!

The true flavour of Saga Boy is savoured in its reading by Downing. The songs, the Trini phrases, the hymns in all their glory and magnificence can only be cherished through Tony's voice. Loved it!

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It was okay.

The book brushed past sexual trauma and felt surface level. It was written like no big deal.I am still stuck at that bush scene.

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A great guy overcoming obstacles.

Not sure why, but I just couldn’t get into this story. I listened at 1.3 speed and it was still dragging for me. I tried to finish it…..but couldn’t.