4 out of 4 stars
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It Began in Brooklyn by Vito Altavilla is a humorous memoir about life growing up in an Italian family during the 1940s-1950s. He describes the time as a "return to normalcy" and states, "...we all knew what could be accomplished by working together." In this spirit, Altavilla shares nostalgic short stories about family traditions, friendships, neighborhood communities, Catholic school, military life, and his career path.
The 168-page memoir is well written and professionally edited. Altavilla's writing style is humorous and upbeat. The short stories traverse themes of love, faith, family, perseverance, commitment, work ethic, community, and integrity.
What I like most about the book is Altavilla's engaging style of storytelling. His amusing recollections are reminiscent of nostalgic sitcoms and conjure images of simpler times. Altavilla recounts memories of traditional Italian dinners and his grandmother, Nauna, pronouncing "Mangia! Mangia!" (Eat! Eat!) over family meals. During one such dinner that stood out in Altavilla's memory, Nauna's dentures sank into the gravy boat. When his younger brother offered Nauna napkins to clean her dentures, she stabbed him with a fork, and Joey exclaimed, "I've been forked!" Although Joey wasn't seriously injured, the brothers were puzzled that neither parent admonished their grandmother. Altavilla likened the situation to an episode of The Twilight Zone. Even so, it was a hilarious story. Another memorable family dinner culminated in Altavilla's mother throwing meatballs at the wall; "Dad never mentioned the 'M' word again." In other instances, Altavilla's humor is more subtle, as in the comment following his description of his father working several part-time jobs while also maintaining a position as a full-time machinery apprentice: "He must have had some free time because Mom got pregnant in 1938, and I was born in 1939."
I can't name anything I dislike about this entertaining read. There are a handful of minor errors that do not detract from the book as a whole. It contains profanity and nonexplicit sexual references. However, most of them were conveyed through amusing anecdotes, such as the time Altavilla and his friends learned about masturbation during a school lecture from a Catholic priest who was so uncomfortable with the topic that he left his audience completely confused. However, Altavilla recalled that the boys looked "forward to the following week's lecture."
It is my pleasure to rate It Began in Brooklyn 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend the humorous book to readers who enjoy nostalgic memoirs about growing up in the 1940s-1950s and Italian family traditions.
It Began in Broklyn
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