With a Closed Fist

Kathy’s first book With a Closed Fist was released November 1st, 2011.

A “gutsy, no-holds-barred, coming-of-age story,” With a Closed Fist chronicles Kathy and her sisters growing up in Point St. Charles, a slum of Montréal that was then considered the toughest neighbourhood in Canada.

– From Véhicule Press

“In the Point St. Charles of Kathy’s childhood people move for one of two reasons: their apartment is on fire, or the rent is due. Starting in 1968, eight-year-old Kathy Dobson shares her early years growing up in Point St. Charles, an industrial slum in Montreal (now in the process of gentrification). She offers a glimpse into the culture of extreme poverty, giving an insider’s view into a neighbourhood then described as the ‘toughest in Canada.’

When student social workers and medical students from McGill University invade the Point, Kathy and her five sisters witness their mother transform from a defeated welfare recipient to an angry and confrontational community organizer who joins in the fight against a city that has turned a blind eye on some of its most vulnerable citizens. When her mother wins the right for Kathy and her two older sisters to attend schools in one of Montreal’s richest neighbourhoods, Kathy is thrown into a foreign world with a completely different set of rules, leading to disastrous results.”

Kathy’s book tour has already hit Montréal (click here for photos and more).

If you’d like to make inquiries regarding Kathy’s availability for book events, please click here.

Reviews of With a Closed Fist


20 Replies to “With a Closed Fist”

  1. HI Kathy, I haven’t read your book yet but you can be sure I am going to buy it. I lived in Point Saint Charles after getting out of Saint Patrick’s Orphanage in 1969. Grew up there for a while and did the gang thing and living the Vida Loca for a bit. It wasn’t all bad but I do agree tough . I am now 58 and will pick up the book and rad a blast from the past. Thanks for shedding some light on my childhood. Harry

  2. I enjoyed your book tremendously. I live in Verdun. Please let me know when you have events in Montreal. Thanks.

    1. Hello Lenor,

      Thank you so much for sharing your feedback about my book! I’m thrilled of course that you enjoyed and it would be my pleasure to let you know when I have events in Montreal! Hope to see and meet you there!


  3. Hi Cathy,
    I just finished your book and found it fascinating. I arrived in Montréal in 1969. I first rented in Ville-Mont-Royal, then Ville-Saint-Michel, Verdun and finally landed innocently in Pointe-Saint-Charles. I instantly felt at home! I heard stories like yours before, it’s something else when you read about it, thanks for “the témoignage”.
    Your Clinic is the only one left still “communautaire”: The board members are all citizens (I am part of it and proud of it). Page 89 you wrote:”…we were in the metro, when I look out the window there was a cartoon of Tweety Bird moving right along with the train”. I was working for Direct Film at the time, a company who processed picture cartridges and had stores all over the place. The bird was their logo and the cartoon was made so it seems flipping its wings for a while… See attached add:
    I am also member of la Sociétét d’histoire de Pointe-Saint-Charles and take this opportunity to thank you again for your help regarding the South-West movie Theatres.
    Bravo again…

  4. Hi Kathy,
    My name is Joe and I’m from Port Elgin, Ontario. A friend of mine from Montreal came down to visit me in Costa Rica a couple of weeks ago and left her copy of “With A Closed Fist” for me to read as I am always in need of books here. She told me her dad just published it and I should give it read. I just finished it this morning and I loved it! Very inspirational. I’ll be passing it along to friends and family too. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Joe,

      Wow, it’s great to hear from you! A reader in Costa Rica? That’s a first for me :)

      I’m so happy that you enjoyed the book and plan to pass it on, thank you!

      Take care, and thank you so much for taking the time to write.


  5. Hello Kathy,

    Thank you so much for your lecture this evening at Algoma University. I am looking forward to reading your book! I really enjoy your sense of humour and how you are able to maintain that humour throughout hardship and struggle. I am a nursing student and am very intrigued about working with vulnerable populations such as those experiencing poverty and homelessness.

    I hope you continue your work to shed light on the realities of living in poverty! Thank you, again! You’re an inspiration!

    ~ Darla

    1. Hello Darla,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to drop me such a lovely note, I really appreciate it!

      I really enjoyed my time at Algoma University. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and I especially enjoyed all of the questions and sharing of other people’s stories after the lecture. I plan to write a post about the visit soon.

      Good luck with your nursing studies!


  6. Hello Kathy,

    I am wanting so bad to read this book , but was wondering if it’s avaible in ereaders I have the kobo and would love to have it on my kobo. please let me know if you can if it will be avaible for ereaders?? I am from the Point and my friend Jean Napper said she enjoyed your book and told me about it ..
    have a wonderful day :O))) Diane Breaker

    1. Hello Diane,

      Thank you for the question, but I’m sorry, it’s not available as an ebook yet!

      I’m thrilled to hear from a fellow Pointer, though, and really happy to know that your friend, Jean Napper, said she enjoyed it- thanks for sharing that with me :)

      Maybe you could borrow it from Jean? Or the Point library, where I understand they have a copy in stock.

      Take care, and if you do eventually read it, I’d love to know what you think!


      1. Hello Kathy,

        Thanks for your reply.I wish I could get from Jean but she lives to far away and I don’t live near the point anymore ..but will keep hope to be able to download it to my Kobo
        wich would be great for me . and for sure when it I do read it I will give you my imput
        for sure ..even to this day the piont in my eyes will always be a special place even though it has been taken over by the big companies and big Real estate co. because it is in the backyard of downtown .Point St Charles with always hold a fond memory in my mind when people cared about neigbours and other humans.. so looking so forward to reading your book… Congrats on your Book.. :O))))

  7. 8-year old Kathy courageously shares her secrets: So has a group of women from her mother’s generation

    Free Press Agency of Point St. Charles, November 17, 2011. Kathy Dobson’s new book “With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood” has been causing quite a buzz in Point St. Charles.

    The polemic started when the Gazette published a colorful critique of the book , pulling out excerpts that were particularly controversial. On the streets of the Point, people were talking. “Okay, I agree that the Point was poor, but we are not all child molesters, drunks and dirty!” Or, “those lesbian, commie, feminists were actually strong women with a revolutionary drive, who had a huge impact in the Point!” Or, “I think she is exaggerating! Who does she think she is?”

    Notwithstanding the polemic (or because of it?), the Book Launch held at St. Columba House went smoothly. Lots of people from the English community came out to the event.

    In response to all this, Kathy Dobson published an “An Open letter to the People of Point St. Charles” in which she recognizes that some people might feel offended by her story, but also says that “this is only one person’s story, and a very personal one at that. I would never presume to speak for anyone else”. She also encouraged others to share their stories.

    Stories from our elders

    Another book, published in 2006, is the result of a collective oral history making project that took over five years to complete. The book is a weaving together of the stories of a group of women, long-time Point residents, who were actively involved in the community in the 1970s and beyond, alongside Eileen Dobson. Their stories touch the themes that 8-year Kathy talks about. They talk about their poor housing conditions, the poverty, the lack of proper health, education and legal services, the lack of adequate leisure activities and green space. They talk about discrimination and violence against women.

    But they also speak of hope, of change, of strength. They share how they were involved in the setting-up of a vast network of organizations and services to defend their rights and improve their quality of life. They tell the story of the citizen initiatives that made Point St. Charles a precursor in the development of community organizing in Quebec: one of the first people-run community health clinics, a legal aid clinic, a food coop, an adult-education group, housing cooperatives, welfare rights groups and community economic development initiatives. They talk of their “love-hate” relationships with “feminist agitators”, middle-class students from McGill and Marxist-Leninist groups of the 1970s who entered – or invaded – their lives in their efforts to change the world. They share how, at the heart of these struggles, these citizen initiatives, were women who played leadership roles and who, with time, came to take a public stand, as women. They too, broke the silence, told their secrets.

    The book is entitled “The Point is… Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity” (by the CourtePointe Collective, 2006, published by les éditions du remue-ménage).

    It is available, in both French and English, at the Point St. Charles public library or, for purchase (20$) at the following locations:
    -St-Columba House (2365, Grand Trunk)
    -Point St. Charles Community Clinic (500, Ash)
    -Action Watchdog (2390, Ryde, room 203)

    For more information about the book by the CourtePointe Collective, please contact:
    Anna Kruzynski
    514.848.2424 x. 5194

  8. Hi Kathy,
    Loved your book. How on earth could this time in my life cause me pain. I was living with a family – that survived- despite the odds -we must also include the adults- your Mom – basically raising 6 kids plus alone. This time period showed me how to be strong and make wise decisions fast. and Aunt Eileen adored me as I got older. As I now adore you. Yes there were many times I am sure that you girls would of loved the kind – gentle moments – yet did we not come out ahead because of the harsh comments from our peers.I always stated Your MOM – MY AUNT EILEEN taught me love – as I saw this in her eyes every time she looked at you girls. Whether it be when she was bathing you or passing a plate of food. Our parents back in those times – were not compassionate or loving all the time – they were strong – hard and honest! The love came later – if we were lucky enough to become there friends. As adults we now see the hardship they also lived!

  9. As a “POINT GIRL”” (Adcroft /Hill clan) myself I can not wait to read your book. Just ordered it today..as well as copies for my family. Will read it then hand to my daughters to read. We (sisters and I ) discuss life in The Point endlessly..now they can read your view and know we where not making stuff up. My girls where born and raised on a farm. Nowhere near Point life:)

  10. Hi Kathy, its good to know that you can come from a poor and tough
    neighborhood and make the best of it, and move on and make a better life
    for yourself. I will certainly buy your book, sounds very interesting.

    a distant relative,

  11. Hi Kathy,
    Exciting that you wrote a book on your experience of growing up in the Point, my home for the first 18 years of my life and connected to me for several more years as my younger siblings and my dad remained there for several years after I had left. Would love to come to your book launch. Will try to bring my sister with me. Let me know the date as soon as you can!

    1. Hello and thanks for the question! The launch is being held in Montreal on November 4th at 5:30 pm until 7:30 at Saint Columba House on Grand Trunk Street in the Point. Please be sure to introduce yourself to me if you do attend :)

      Thanks again,


    1. I’m delighted that you and Louise will be coming, Andrew! I’ll let you know as soon as I have the exact date from my publisher. I should know by Monday :)


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