Birds of Passage: an Italian Immigrant coming of Age Story by Joe Giordano
Harvard Square Editions
Published: October 8, 2015
Trade paperback, 274 pages
What turns the gentle mean and the mean brutal? The thirst for wealth? The demand for respect? Vying for a woman? Birds of Passage recalls the Italian immigration experience at the turn of the twentieth-century when New York's streets were paved with violence and disappointment.
Leonardo Robustelli leaves Naples in 1905 to seek his fortune. Carlo Mazzi committed murder and escaped. Azzura Medina is an American of Italian parents. She's ambitious but strictly controlled by her mother. Leonardo and Carlo vie for her affection.
Azzura, Leonardo, and Carlo confront con men, Tammany Hall politicians, the longshoreman's union, Camorra clans, Black Hand extortion, and the Tombs prison.
Italian historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so it's no wonder that I was immediately attracted to this book. And I was not disappointed. Joe Giordano's telling of two young men from Naples, Leonardo, the beloved son of a poor farmer's wife, and Carlo, the coddled son of their wealthy landlord who make their way to New York in 1905, is filled with drama, despair, longing and hard choices.
It's not a morose tale, but one that spells reality, a reality that many immigrants, and in this particular case, Italian immigrants lived through. Giordano's own relatives did so and so did mine. My great-grandfather immigrated to Boston, my grandfather to Montreal followed by my father years later after he married my mom in Rome. So like the author, I grew up hearing immigration stories with parents who made sure we had a good education and took advantage of everything our country could give us.
The story takes place both in Naples, Italy and in New York. I was transported to these locations easily with Giordano's descriptions. His crisp writing was perfect for this kind of story. The dialogue clipped and direct. I was totally immersed in the story, pulled into the stark reality of immigrants trying to make a life for themself, caught up in Leonardo's innocence and watching as it was slowly stripped away. The characters are well developed and even the secondary characters get background information. I could easily see this book being made into a move because the compelling story, the realistic characters and the setting were all superb.
There were several layers to this story as it explored the themes of family obligation, vendettas, deciding between right and wrong, familial love, and women's independence. Leonardo struggled with these choices (both his and others), while Carlo followed his gut instincts even when they led to terrible actions. Azzura, the young woman they both fell in love with, also struggled but she made the right choices for herself, even if they were hard and initially caused her heartache. I admired her.
This was a story that made me think. It made me realize how difficult immigration must have been for my relatives, how heartbreaking some choices must have been. Of course, the ugly side of the mafia rears its head and although our parents shielded much of it from their children, they had to have lived in fear of its domination.
There are some rough scenes in the book, religious profanity and violence in the form of brutal killings, but none of it is too excessive considering the setting and circumstances of the story. Giordano is a gifted storyteller whose realistic stories pull you in and bring you back to the turn of the 20th century, where the back-breaking work and sweat of immigrants paved the way for a better future for all generations.
To read more reviews, please visit Joe Giordano's page on Italy Book Tours.
Buy the book:
The Kindle copy of Birds of Passage will be free to download for five days starting the day after the end of this virtual tour (Saturday, November 7th through Wednesday, November 11th)
About the Author:
Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Naples. Joe and his wife, Jane have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu Sophia. Joe's stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review.
Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook
And now for the Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure : Thanks to the author for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.