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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"With Birds of Passage, Joe Giordano delivers a rollicking, wholly entertaining take on the Italian immigrant story. His rich cast of characters arrives seeking the usual: Money, honor, love, respect, a decent shot at the pursuit of happiness. But things get complicated fast as they plunge into the rough-and-tumble world of rackets, scams, and politics of early 20th-century New York City. Giordano serves up a thick, satisfying slice of the entire era in all its raw and brutal glory."
Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Ang Lee.
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.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: When my wife Jane and I lived in Greece, I became fascinated with Greek history and decided to write an historical fiction account about the Persian Wars: Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis. My prose was terrible. I realized that I needed to learn how to write. I enrolled in some UT Austin classes and tried my hand on short stories. I received a swamp-full of rejections. Three years ago, my pieces began to be accepted by small online and print magazines. Seventy of my stories have been published and, on October 8th, my novel Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story.
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
A: I started Birds of Passage in October of 2013. By April, I had a draft and sent it to a professional editor. After a rewrite, submissions were made in August. Harvard Square Editions expressed interest in my work in January, but requested a second edit. Following that process and another rewrite, HSE accepted my novel for publication in May 2015.
3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
A: I write every day. Mornings are best. When I run out of steam, I play golf, bridge, or practice my Italian.
4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My writing is like a tornado. Lots of spinning, sometimes in unexpected directions, but I try to arrive with some oomph.
5. How do books get published?
A: What I went through for HSE to accept my book for publication is described above. I found the process to attract an agent or publisher far more difficult than writing the book. There’s huge competition for readers and your work must be distinctive and different to be accepted.
6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
A: My father and all my grandparents were immigrants. I wanted to understand the environment they entered in the States, so I took a UT Austin graduate course on The Progressive Era. My term paper was on Italian immigration. During the semester, I penned a short story, “The Sour Smell of Pain.” Later, I decided that my writing had progressed to the point where I could tackle another novel, so I started Birds of Passage. The book is not about my family, but there are numerous insider references.
7. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
A: I finished the unpublished (and lousy) book on Greek history when I was sixty. This year, I’ll turn sixty-seven.
8. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
A: I play golf, carrying my bag for exercise. I also play bridge and practice Italian. My wife and I enjoy traveling.
9. What does your family think of your writing?
A: Everyone is proud that I was able to have my novel published. They’re regular readers of my short stories. Jane reads early drafts and provides invaluable insight and comments.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
A: I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the creative process of writing.
11. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
A: There’s only Birds of Passage. I’m working on a second novel, a modern thriller. An Italian-American runs afoul of the Russian mob in New York. I hope you won’t be able to put it down.
12. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
A: Seek feedback and learn from all constructive comments even if you disagree. Fiction writers receive rejection about as often as we breathe. Don’t fear rejection. Acceptance becomes all the sweeter. Read to learn from other writers and for inspiration. Write, write, write, and your work will improve.
13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
A: I have a blog where I provide links to my short stories as they’re published. Readers often give me their reaction. They tell me what they like, and what they don’t. I always thank them for reading even if they didn’t care for the piece. Creative writing is art, and therefore subjective. The reader, not the writer is the final judge of both the quality of the work and its meaning.
14. Do you like to create books for adults?
A: Adults are my primary focus.
15. What do you think makes a good story?
A: A good story stays with the reader, and provides some insight on human existence. I’d like my work to elicit some emotional reaction in the reader.
16. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A: My father was an immigrant with little education. His direction was, “Go to school.” I was achievement orientated and pursued a number of directions before landing in an area I enjoyed. I’ve found life to be more a process of tacking than a straight sail. I had no idea I would write until I was in my fifties.
17. What would you like my readers to know?
A. If they have the chance to read my novel, I’ll greatly appreciate their time and attention. With all the choices readers have, it’s an honor if they decide to spend time on Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story.
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