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Dec 07, 2013 | 367999 views | 0 0 comments | 1528 1528 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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“My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety
by Milano52
Jan 12, 2014 | 72519 views | 0 0 comments | 2698 2698 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

“My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety

myfather_cover    tomb

“My Father, My Don,” A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety

By Tony Napoli with Charles Messina 

Tiziano Thomas Dossena, As appeared on L’Idea Magazine, January 10, 2014

As a reviewer I found myself in a predicament while reading Tony Napoli’s outstanding  biographical recollection “My Father, My Don”: should I dare to compare it to another book I had previously reviewed, “For the Sins of My Father” by Albert DeMeo, or would that be inopportune, since the two writers’ lives had quite a different turn-out?  Well, I really had to, since both children of notorious members of the organized crime had in common quite a few sentiments.

DeMeo’s stated that “no one could have asked for a better father,” clearly positions the loving relationship between the mob boss and his child, but so does Tony Napoli’s “it was during these days spent in San Paolo, just sitting there eating our meals, laying cards, and talking, that I came to really know my father. Far from the maddening crowd – and the business that had taken us all over the world and back – we were able to connect as people, man-to-man, father-to-son.”

Another similarity was the slow-but-steady awareness that both writers had of their father’s criminal activities. Tony Napoli remembers when he was 14 years old and his father would get up early in the morning and take out of the freezer a dozen stacks of bills, and then he declares that as a youngster he knew that his “father was not your average father,” but “something else, something special.” DeMeo’ attempted rationalization of his father’s actions was to ignore the evidence, because if his “father was doing it, it must be all right.”

jimmynap    Jimmy1952

B
oth fathers taught their sons to respect the elderly and the women and to reward loyalty, and regardless of their slightly different approach to their initial discovery of their fathers’ illegal feats, their world was very similar, and certainly unlike any other of their contemporaries. Even their involvement with crime is tied to their father. It is actually at this point, though, that appear to surface the differences between the two experiences. DeMeo is introduced to the crime world at an early age (around 14) by the father, who uses him as a messenger, while Tony Napoli has a normal youth, graduating high school and performing his tour of duty in the Air Force, as a Military Policeman none the less, before he settles on illegal activities.

There could have been more similarities in their life stories, if not for the early demise of DeMeo, killed when the son was only seventeen. The two books may appear at first, because of these parallels, to be constructed on comparable feelings, but they are not. While DeMeo’s life straightens up when he realizes that his father had created a sordid group of slaughterers who had a morbid taste for blood, Tony Napoli’s life continues on the road of dissipation, conflicting with his own father, who continuously ‘fixes’ his son’s misdeeds.

twoTonys     tonyBoxer

“My Father, My Don” is a dual book, aimed at showing the stature of Jimmy “Nap” Napoli’s presence within the Mafia as well as his defects and merits as a man, and how this man influenced his son’s life mostly in a positive way. Tony Napoli’s narration is not a defense or a series of excuses for his father’s actions, but a direct description of events that he either witnessed or learned through family’s conversations, without any attempt to minimize them nor render  them legendary. It is really and truly a son’s chronicle, recounted as if the reader is in front of a fireplace, with a hot chocolate on the side table and a dog on the lap. There are no gimmicks nor attempts to change the reality of the two men. Tony Napoli does not apologize for being who he is, nor for his father’s deeds, which he does not condone nor condemns, but merely accepts.

The story of Jimmy Napoli is one of intrigue, but not of deception, one of crime and murders, but not of needless brutality. The tale start with his father (the writer’s grandfather), a just and honest man who wanted his son’s life to be like his and was not able to ever control Jimmy’s strong predilection toward easier money, to continue through the early years of his criminal, but not lawless life, with remarkable characters as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel as protagonists.

This is all you can imagine it to be: an exciting and breathtaking saga of two men, father and son, deeply involved with the crime world, but at the same time living a normal family life, to the dismay of the observers. Tony Napoli’s continuous battle with alcohol contrasts well with his ability to fight in a ring, just as his father’s successful exploits stand out against his own recurrent fiascoes with the handling of his father’s criminal ventures.

Tony has no shame to admit his failures and show that it is through them that he has been able to redeem himself and become a respected member of society.

This is a complex book, presented in an apparent simple manner (my compliments to Charles Messina for his ability to retain Tony’s informal, almost intimate language), ripe with stories that will satisfy any reader interested in the mob life, but also the ones who want to understand the life of the casinos, the night clubs and the performers of that era, such as Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Roselli. It is also the story of a son who is proud to carry his family name, while recognizing the father’s and his own failures, or, as the writer himself states, “ it is a “son’s journey from organized crime to sobriety.”

The book is available on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/My-Father-Don-Tony-Napoli/dp/0980238056/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389421104&sr=8-1&keywords=my father, my don

and Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/My-Father-Don-Charles-Messina-ebook/dp/B004MPRLBU/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1389421104

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TROY'S LITTLE ITALY
by Milano52
Jan 07, 2014 | 47910 views | 0 0 comments | 2719 2719 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Troy's Little Italy
Troy's Little Italy
slideshow
TROY'S LITTLE ITALY

A book by Michael A. Esposito, published by ARCADIA PUBLISHING

When I picked up this book at first, I was thrilled by the cover, and having read other books belonging to the Image of America series by Arcadia Publishing, I expected the content of the book to be ripe with old and new images of Troy’s Little Italy, with a focus on their comparison. To my surprise, a significant share of the photographs portrayed Italians and Italian Americans carrying out their daily routines of attending school, playing, acting, working, going to war, gathering socially, parading, etc…

At first, I confess, my reaction was not particularly positive. I felt as if I was standing in someone’s living room, gazing through their family’s portraits and memorabilia without ever meeting the hosts. It almost felt as if I was intruding. It only took few pages of reading to realize that it wasn’t so. The “neighborhood” came alive through the images of the people who had lived there and contributed with their presence and actions to its existence per se. The pictures in the book were always rationally tied to each other and Little Italy by a detailed description and, little by little, I found myself absorbed by the “story” that was developing before my eyes. I’s a story mostly of common people who have lived for their families and sometimes died for their country, attended school or sold fresh produce with a stand, but most of all it’s a story of Italians who have proven through their hard work that they were as deserving, if not more, as any other ethnic group and consequently earned their neighbors’ respect and sometimes admiration.

The accounts of everyday’s events, such as the opening or closing of a store, the departure of a soldier to war, the weddings, the graduations, the building of a church or of a school, the meetings of the local associations, allowed me to experience the true components of the environs that make it a true neighborhood and not just a city living area. More significantly so for a neighborhood in which the predominant residents were Italians, whether by birth or by blood, an ethnic group that venerates family values, work and education, making them the most important references in life. Their presence, which yielded the creation of Troy’s Little Italy, for that reason had to be presented and elucidated, through images and words, so that this enclave could be appreciated not only for its architectural or historical characteristics, but also for its social texture.

The pictures and their descriptions, therefore, allowed me to witness the birth and growth of this well-knit community of Troy as well as appreciating the physical development of this characteristic Little Italy, which has deserved three paintings by the famous artist Norman Rockwell. I can safely write that Michael A. Esposito has produced a compelling story of this neighborhood and its book deserves our praise, as well the attention of all the Italian Americans who are interested in discovering their most recent history.

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FOR THE SINS OF MY FATHER: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy of a Mob Life
by Milano52
Dec 31, 2013 | 74842 views | 0 0 comments | 2809 2809 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
For The Sins of my Father
For The Sins of my Father
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“FOR THE SINS OF MY FATHER: A Mafia Killer, His Son, and the Legacy of a Mob Life” by Albert DeMeo



We all live with some kind of legacy that has molded our minds and directed our actions. Sometimes this legacy is one of honesty and respect for other people’s lives, sometimes it’s just a series of material things and very little else. Most of us, though, are lucky and can look back to our early years with a smile and find, among the many recollections, many fond memories of our parents, relatives, friends and neighborhood. Not everyone has that luck, though. There are people who have only horrible memories and fight all their life to forget the past and to avoid the trap of insanity. There are also people that have mostly good memories of their early years because life had masked the reality of the world around them. Albert DeMeo is one of them. In his For the Sins of My Father, he examines his life and shows us how his father was capable to be a loving parent, husband and son while running a series of illegal enterprises. What really surfaces is the conflict between the love for the father, and the attempt to rationalize his actions, and the realization that his father was not the man he thought he knew.

It is the story of a Mob child who thought “no one could have asked for a better father” than his because “he spent more time with me [him] than any of the other fathers in the neighborhood spent with their children”. He soon discovers, though, that not everything is what seems. He starts wondering about the strange conversations between his father and the numerous “uncles” that pervade his life. His father never avoids the questions and tells it to him as it is. Albert then tries to make sense of the newly discovered facts: “Uncle Vinny a thief? But he seemed so nice, and I could tell my father liked him. If my father liked him, he must be all right.”

The doubts grow with the years, but the justifications are ready made, as expected from a very young boy: “Did this envelope have money in it? A small knot grew in the pit of my stomach. I ignored it. If my father was doing it, it must be all right.” and “In spite of the things I heard and saw on my outings with him, the line between legal and illegal was blurry…” Little by little, however, the pressure builds up and the knowledge becomes involvement. He learns about guns at the age of six, owns one by nine years old and starts collecting his father’s loan payments by the tender age of fourteen. He is a criminal without the full realization of being one. He has been so absorbed in attempting to justify his father’s life and actions, and to be like him, just as most children do, that he has erased in his mind the line between right and wrong. His conscience works nevertheless and he develops an ulcer and the inability to sleep through a whole night.

The story progresses steadily and mercilessly through his adolescence, reaching the apparent apex at the kid’s seventeenth birthday, when his father gets murdered. The reality becomes at this time of his life more fantastic than fiction. The book covers many topics regarding the life of the infamous Roy DeMeo and his “Murder Machine”, but most of all shows us that “Bad guys are not bad guys twenty-four hours a day” and that even bad guys have their own apparent set of rules: “My father taught me to have respect for old people” and to “always treat a woman with respect, for she is somebody’s daughter, mother, or sister.”

A world of pretense, a “glass bubble” that eventually shatters and leaves everyone traumatized and outraged at the deception. The survivors will have to reconstruct their lives, trying to overcome the mental confusion that a revelation such as the one from this book carries.

I thought that the author said it all when he states that “Whatever else he had done, whoever else he had been, he had been my father, and I loved him more than my own life. And he had loved me. Whatever the world thought of either one of us, I had to hold on to that truth. I also had to grasp a new truth. I was not my father. I never had been.”

The book is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sins-My-Father-Killer-Legacy/dp/0767906896/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387698002&sr=1-1&keywords=for the sins of my father

and on Kindle:http://www.amazon.com/Sins-My-Father-Killer-Legacy-ebook/dp/B000FC1I4K/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1387698002

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The Island of Tears.
by Milano52
Dec 26, 2013 | 42132 views | 0 0 comments | 959 959 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
There are numerous volumes that have been published on the tragedy of 9/11; some excellent and inspirational, other just manipulative. The topic of 9/11 is indisputably poignant and current. I was recently honored by a request to write a preface for the poetry book titled “The Island of Tears”. The author, Giulia Poli Disanto, wrote these philosophical and insightful verses as a tribute to the fallen victims and heroes of that catastrophic day.

The true spirit of the poet has taken up this significant and historical event and embraced it. Her love for New York City and all it symbolizes, this enchanted metropolis that “resurrected from the ashes as the mythic Phoenix”, is genuine and concrete.

The book was originally written in Italian and it is published by Ideapress, a Brooklyn publisher, in both languages, face to face. The advantage naturally will go to the readers who understand a bit of that language, giving them the opportunity to savor even more the verses in the original version.

Although the poet’s ancestry is in Italy, in the southern region of Apulia, her heart is American, and she feels she belongs among the “plurality of this wonderful city which has been scarred for life by the events of that day”. The many articles that have appeared on L’Idea Magazine, a Brooklyn quarterly, have confirmed her connection to New York City, as well as her understanding of the readers’ desires; the book’s lyrics substantiate her love for this fantastic city.

In The Island of Tears, the reader can experience the raw emotions that every New Yorker has suffered in those days, the awful sensation of disbelief that had struck the hard working people from this marvelous city, admired for its resilience all over the world, the moments of fear, surprise, dread, bewilderment, worry, dismay, which have been associated with this horrifying and unanticipated attack on the Western World and what it stood for.

The delicate verses and the gentle soul of Giulia Poli Disanto sort out all these feelings for the reader. The author cannot be accused of attempting to trivialize the moment or to use images that could disturb us. Her verses are genuine, and so is her message. Her interests and worries are for the everyday man who has endured, in the twinkling of an eye, the devastation of an undeclared and cruel conflict.

Her poetry is appreciably charged with “imagery of love, friendship, hope and understanding, and observations of deep sensitivity and perception, all blended in free flowing verses of a stunning beauty and hermetic might”. Her message is more than evident and it is worthy of the appreciation of the reader as much as her poetry does.

The wonderful photographs by Daniel Portalatin have their own lyrical value and definitely complement and enrich ever more the book.

The introduction is a personal chronicle of that day by Albert Hickey, an ex-detective who lived that day and the aftermath as a first responder. It is well written and it has a undisputable flavor of immediacy and reality; a tinge of melancholy is present throughout its fast paced sentences, but the emphasis is always on hope and the preservation of the memories of that day. Over all, the Island of Tears (L’Isola delle Lacrime) is a book which should be read and cherished by anyone who remembers that tragic day.

Publisher's Website: http://www.ideapress-usa.com/

Publisher's email (Idea Press): idea1000@aol.com

Books is available on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/THE-ISLAND-OF-TEARS-POETRY-ebook/dp/B00GXDJMSE/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1386802703&sr=8-12&keywords=island of tears

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SPORTS ON THE BRAIN: BASEBALL.
by Milano52
Dec 20, 2013 | 48243 views | 0 0 comments | 2553 2553 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Joe Soccoa’s book, “Sports on the Brain: Baseball,” is an interesting mixture of debates and facts regarding baseball, organized in a logical and pleasant manner, allowing the reader to absorb the notions and commentary while enjoying the fast pace of the book. “I debate sports because that is what I believe I’m good at,” writes the author in his introduction to this refreshing and new approach to book writing.

We certainly have to agree with him that he is good at debating sports, and in particular baseball, of which I finally understood a bit more, thanks to his explanations. The “Game of Baseball,” a complete description of the rules of this game, is followed by “Controversies of the Game,” a chapter touching a few topics, with an emphasis on drug use in that sport. The “Evil Empire” traces the Yankees history and their feud with the Red Sox, while “The Boss” comments on the legendary George Steinbrenner.

There are chapters on all the relevant facts of baseball, from the owners and fans polemics to the “Evolution of the game;” no major item is untouched. That is what makes this book a perfect blend of statistics, rules, commentary, debates and personal opinions. As the author states, “Baseball is America’s game. No matter where you may go, some will always have baseball in your heart.” Being that the case, it would be nice for even the sports-negated individuals to read this book and gain some knowledge about baseball, which could be used in casual conversations and who knows, may also turn them on to the sport itself.

We are certainly looking forward to the next title of this Sports on the Brain series...

Publisher's email: idea1000@aol.com

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“We Weren’t Always White”; ANTI-ITALIANISM, ESSAYS ON A PREJUDICE
by Milano52
Dec 14, 2013 | 68263 views | 0 0 comments | 2411 2411 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This book is a marvelous opus which deserves to be recognized for its innovative approach to the topic of Anti-Italianism.  As William J. Connell affirms, “The essays in this volume were written… with the idea of looking very hard at the experiences Italian Americans have had with issues of discrimination and stereotyping.” And it does so with a command of the subject that reflects the deep experience and knowledge of the various contributors. 

Fred Gardaphé writes: “Whether they like it or not, Italian Americans cannot escape the fact that they weren’t always white.” It is a powerful statement and it merits some pondering upon it. The volume presents the opportunity to involve ourselves in our recent past history and discover the truth behind our integration within the American system, because knowing the truth can only help us understand, respect even more our progenitors and at the same prevent such horrible events from ever recurring.

These and many other keen observations are abundant throughout the book, along with many statistics and facts offered with fervor and extreme correctness. The result is brilliant and undeniably it challenges us to think, reconsider our beliefs and knowledge of our heritage, and reevaluate our reactions and our way of life. It is a book of revelations for most of us.

There is a wonderful essay by Peter Vellon about our “colored” past, when Italians were defined by many Americans (and most often by government agents) as “between white men and negroes”, prone to crime and disease, harder to assimilate, less literate and less desirable than Northern Europeans, and lynching was frequently used to keep them under control. Peter R. D’Agostino offers a very interesting insight on the manipulations of the Italians in America by the Roman Catholic Church, while Elizabeth G. Messina proposes a study of the sociopolitical and historical contexts which triggered the stigmatization of Italian immigrants. Her ability to demonstrate beyond refute the misuse of statistical data is remarkable. She ushers us in a world where a renowned American researcher in 1922 may impudently state that Italian immigrants were so “depraved they hardly belong to our species”, imbeciles with primitive brain structures, “scarcely superior to that of the ox.” It is not only intriguing to read this essay, but also a bit troubling for the blatant inhumaneness that emerges. Let’s not forget that our own president Theodore Roosevelt had declared, a few years earlier, that there is “no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American”.

LindaAnn  Loschiavo proposes a profound and vibrant analysis of the structures that allow other ethnic groups and minorities to achieve a more consequential place in our society by valuing and rewarding their writers and artists. The study also points out shortcomings by our own Italian American organizations and the reasons that may be prompting them. Loschiavo, though, does not only criticize these organizations lack of interest in the development of ‘our own’ creative minds in the Arts, but she also offers real answers, easy and straightforward, and we hope that someone “out there” is listening to her clear and applicable solutions to this self-inflicted failure.

This book will undeniably challenge the reader to reflect upon, evaluate and  find a connection to the significant and compelling topics that the essayists dared to focus on.

On sale on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Italianism-Prejudice-Italian-American-Studies/dp/023010830X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386817919&sr=8-1&keywords=antiitalianism

On Kindle:http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Italianism-Prejudice-Italian-American-Studies-ebook/dp/B009AWG27E/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1386817919&sr=8-1

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“TheSpaghetti Set” by Rose Marie Maisto Boyd
by Milano52
Dec 07, 2013 | 49867 views | 0 0 comments | 2529 2529 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

It is very refreshing to see that there are still writers who are able to touch us and getting us involved in their imaginary world without offering tales of violence and sex. The Spaghetti Set is a powerful novel, written in a soft and distinct style, which will please both the Italian American reader who is looking for a story to identify with and the average American reader who is looking for intense feelings without gore or foul language.  The characters are all intertwined by destiny in what seems to appear as an average Italian immigrants’ community, but just as in every social group, there are individuals who shine and rise above the crowd, while others fall in the gutter where they belong and try to slither through their lives without regard to feelings, family ties or duties. The magnificent work done by Rose Marie Boyd (don’t let the name fool you, she is full bloodied Italian) on the characters’ development shows through the fast pace of the narrative, which is more than inviting. At times you feel as part of one family or the other (this is the story of two families tied by a common bond), but you cannot ever be detached and ignore the growing pains, the elations, the sorrows, the spiritual contortions of the main characters, who by the end of the book become as part of your memories as your own uncles, aunts and cousins…

Teresa , the heroine of the story, is a young woman who becomes the joining link between these two families. She is the seed of renewal that is needed in a somewhat static society of a fictitious Little Italy, where she brings her enthusiasm, intelligence, wits and desire to succeed, allowing the love of her life Mack, the other main character, to find himself and overcome the physical impediments that made his life miserable.  Through love the novel soars, but it is not only love that drives the story. The dominant instincts of life are all present and fighting for prevalence. Greed fights honesty, while lust fights purity, but underneath it all stands tall the love for the family, so strong among Americans of Italian descent, and their deep belief that work will bring success.

The author has done an outstanding job at building a fictional world that will definitely absorb the attention of the reader. There are many Italian expressions in the book and most often they will bring a smile to the readers’ lips for their simple sense of humor and their ability to recreate the characters in a credible manner.  Personally, I could not put the book down without knowing how it ended, and that is what every writer should aim at: the attention of the reader.

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