GIOVANNI ‘O SCUGNIZZO, Joe Polacco’s New Novel, is out!
A family history in an historical fiction setting
Giovanni was my immigrant great-grandfather. I was born five years after his 1939 passing, both events taking place in South Brooklyn. My mother, Vina, related precious snippets of her beloved grandfather Giovanni’s (mis)adventures, habits, sayings, and quirks. I should have paid more attention—such a sad, common, refrain.
But Giovanni and I have now interacted: I frame-shifted his life at least thirty years, to 1969. I have benefited from his wisdom and resonated with his doubts. He is surprisingly deep, yet a fun guy—a lover of wine, family, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and insects. His youthful street experience gave him a discerning eye for scugnizzo tendencies among American authorities.
So, why did I bother to write the story and, egads, publish it? My shortest answer is “The Immigrant Experience.”
Five hundred years of voluntary and forced immigration form the fabric of our American weave. (And, thanks to Native Americans who constructed the weaving box over many millennia.) Giovanni’s thread goes back to Naples, Italy, around the turn of the twentieth century. His story is historical fiction which behooved me to make that history an accurate backdrop for Giovanni’s family story. While most family escapades and experiences in Giovanni are real, several have been transposed to different generations. Last names have been changed and new family members introduced, mainly to portray relations among immigrant groups.
Giovanni loved America, though it oft gave him acid indigestion, the àgita he remedied with a shot or two of BrioschiTM.
In any language, Giovanni dealt with racism, foreign wars, a flu pandemic, the Great Depression, Mussolini’s long arm, internment, a polio epidemic, civil rights/anti-war movements, the American justice system, and the American mob. The accent is Neapolitan, the story American.
May you find your own interwoven immigrant thread.