Family Mysteries In Canton, Ohio

Posted by on Apr 16, 2015 in History | One Comment
Family Mysteries 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 Family Secrets

Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in History | 2 Comments
Our Family 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 Artistic DNA

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

  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 Family Journey

Posted by on Mar 27, 2015 in History | One Comment
The Italian Family Journey

  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 Single Father. My Broken Hero.

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in History | 4 Comments
My Single Father. 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 would make the single father a modern character type, he would play that role. Not that […]

My Mom, the Mob Wife

Posted by on Mar 19, 2015 in History | 8 Comments
My Mom, the Mob Wife

  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 Escapist

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

  THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE EXPRESSION on my mother’s face here that, if I’m not misinterpreting completely, I totally recognize. She may be fifteen or sixteen, but even looking back decades in time, I think I know that look. To me that expression captures something of her philosophy of life. It’s how she coped. It’s as if she was saying, […]

A Steel Family Story

Posted by on Mar 14, 2015 in History | 2 Comments
A Steel Family Story

  SHOULD WE SEARCH THIS MAN’S FACE, we would look much farther back in history than it would seem a mere 75 years could actually 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. […]