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.
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This book provided an interesting glimpse into the immigrant experience in the early 1900s, when so many young Italians came to America seeking a better life or to escape their pasts. The two main characters, Leonardo and Carlo, are from the same place, but from different economic classes. These young men were willing to endure long voyages under horrible conditions and undertake almost any kind of work to get by. They came to America for different reasons, yet soon find their lives intertwined as they try to survive.
Birds of Passage describes a time when corruption, violence and racketeering were a part of daily life. It is clear from the detailed descriptions of tenement life, the clashes between the Italian clan-based gangs and between different ethnic groups (the Irish in particular), the labour union issues, and more, that the author thoroughly researched the period. It was an informative and enjoyable read.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.
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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.