Part One: The Nest

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in History | No Comments
Part One: The Nest

  WHEN, IN MY EARLY TWENTIES, I finally saw my mother again for the first time since a child, I sat on her couch in Cleveland, and she tried to explain why she’d left us in Dallas, to go back to Ohio, back to Bus. I believed much of her story. Even the more fantastic parts, though they […]

That Day In Canton, Ohio

Posted by on Apr 16, 2015 in History | One Comment
That Day In Canton, Ohio

  WRITING FICTION–STORIES, MYTHS, whatever you’d call what I’m doing in my life right now–is a surprisingly effective way of getting at the truth. Take for instance a chapter that’s based in part on this photo. It’s a snapshot I came across in the midst of this writer’s journey, a journey of discovery, an exploration of my mother’s life, the choices she made, and how […]

Our Secrets

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in History | 2 Comments
Our Secrets

  SECRETS. THEY MAY BE A PART of every family’s history. But make it a family with some Italian in it and you’ll need pretty high-level security clearance to get to the bottom of everything. Especially if you’re just “one of the kids.” So in my attempt to understand the powerful forces and pervasive influences that have helped make me […]

The Artists

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in History | No Comments
The Artists

  THERE, IN THE BACK PAGES of my old guidebook of Italy, is a little 4-page section that itself speaks volumes–to me at least–about my family’s homeland. It’s a section that begins with the understated, one-word heading, LIST. This shorter index was inserted in front of the normal index, that alphabetized list of fountains and ruins that the turn-of-the-century traveler would flip to. This one–this “List of the most important Artists mentioned”–shoulders […]

The Italian

Posted by on Mar 27, 2015 in History | No Comments
The Italian

  ALTHOUGH THE PROUD OFFSPRING of Italian-Americans, I was oblivious to the discrimination my family faced, though it’s known to have existed well into the ’50s and early ’60s when I was growing up in the industrial Northeast. Whatever else was going on, according to the photographic record above, I was a pretty happy kid (obviously high on something). Of […]

My Dad. My Broken Hero.

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in History | 2 Comments
My Dad. My Broken Hero.

  JAMES FRANK STARR, the man in the photo above, was the single most stable and consistent influence in my early life. Here you see him as a young man of about 25, married with two small children. Only a few years later, and almost two decades before the film Kramer vs. Kramer first dramatized a new kind of single fatherhood, he would play that […]

Airing the Dirty Laundry

Posted by on Mar 19, 2015 in History | 4 Comments
Airing the Dirty Laundry

  JUST AS YOU MAY HAVE HEARD, old-school Italians don’t go in much for blabbing the family secrets. There’s an expression I remember from childhood (having had it drilled into me over and over again): It’s nobody’s business but ours. So my great-grandfather, Nicola Schioppa, would roll over in his grave if he read this. Avert your eyes, Grandpa Nic. […]

The Chase

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in History | No Comments
The Chase

  THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE EXPRESSION on my mother’s face here that I recognize, if not misinterpret completely. She may be fifteen or sixteen, but I think I know that look. She appears to be biting her lip, as if to say, “I’ll just play along with all this for now. I’ll bide my time.” That coping […]

Steel Worker

Posted by on Mar 14, 2015 in History | 2 Comments
Steel Worker

  SHOULD WE SEARCH THIS MAN’S FACE, we would look much farther back in history than it would seem the actual 75 years might take us. I have little doubt his eyes saw things we would consider medieval. It might merely have been slitting the throat of a pig or a goat outside the kitchen door. […]