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Unto the Sons


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About the Author

Gay Talese was a reporter for The New York Times from 1956 to 1965. Since then he has written for The New York Times, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, and other national publications. He is the author of 13 books. He lives with his wife, Nan, in New York City.


Unlike Talese's past best sellers (e.g., Honor Thy Father , LJ 12/1/71; and Thy Neighbor's Wife , LJ 6/15/80), this new book is a personal saga. Talese starts generations back, interweaving tales of his ancestors in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries with his own childhood years in Ocean City, New Jersey during World War II. The Talese clan lived for generations in the tiny southern Italian village of Maida. Like most Americans of immigrant background, they came to the United States through a mixture of survival and good fortune. As well, these people each possessed a proud history, a tradition, and a reality that went beyond the shore of their newly adopted country. A fine storyteller, Talese penned this odyssey with affection, but also with the clear-eyed sense of the dramatic and noble lives of his forebears. The result, after ten years of preparation, is a grand epic along the lines of Alex Haley's Roots ( LJ 10/15/76) and Irving Howe's The World of Our Fathers (HBJ, 1976). This is highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/91-- David Nudo, ``Li brary Journal''

Filtering the history of Italian immigration to America through the personal saga of Talese's family, this massive and masterful volume recreates the author's ancestral home in the Southern Italian backwater of Maida, vivifying a superstitious, impoverished, apolitical and powerless underclass that for centuries was exploited by both its own aristocracy and a parade of foreign rulers and invaders. In Maida the author's great-grandfather Domenico ruled his farm with an iron hand; lured by a dream of prosperity, Talese's grandfather Gaetano left his family in Italy and worked himself to an early grave in a Pennsylvania asbestos-factory town. Gaetano's son Joseph witnessed the devastation that WW I heaped on his village, apprenticed as a tailor to a kindly uncle in Maida, later joined a cousin who had made his way to Paris, and eventually followed his late father's path to America in 1920. Talese ( Thy Neighbor's Wife ) nimbly juggles a large variety of characters, events and settings. An aloof loner, Talese's first-generation American mother, Catherine, grew up in an insular Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.; the walls of her home were hung with crucifixes, and her parents, who had both experienced tragic earlier marriages in the old country, wore the dark clothes of mourning. Raised in Ocean City, N.J., as a minority within a minority (an Italian in an Irish Catholic parish on a Protestant island), Talese recalls an exacting father who never played ball with him and who used him as a mannequin for his clothing creations. A story that will resonate for parents and children of every nationality relates how Joseph, torn between his loyalty to his adopted homeland and his love for his family in Italy, lost control of himself during WW II; upon learning that the Allies had bombed an abbey in southern Italy, he shut his ears to his son's cries and destroyed the fleet of model U.S. aircraft that Gay had painstakingly built. 300,000 first printing; BOMC main selection. (Feb.)

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