By Jackie Brida Fischer
This is the true gut wrenching story of the separation of two Sicilian brothers at Ellis Island. It begins in 1914, when the author’s maternal grandfather left Sicily for the United States, along with his parents, sister and brother. As happened at the time, certain immigrants were quarantined due to illness and that is what happened to young Gaspare Titone. Rather than being allowed to stay in what was to be his new homeland, he was sent back to Sicily to live with an aunt and uncle, while the rest of his family settled in Brooklyn, New York. Written in poetic prose, Jackie Brida Fischer has written the story in melodic couplets that immediately and throughout the short story reflect the strong emotions of each character.The illustrations by Marialuisa Paladino and family photographs further build the connection.
The chapters of the book alternate between the lives of Carlo Titone in New York and Gaspare Titone in Marsala, Sicily. One brother adapting to and adopting the customs of his home in a new land, while the other remained bound in the tradition of hard work and family values, but conflicted by the sense of isolation from his “real” family.
Each boy grew to be a man and established his own family, each on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The respective families grew, but the separation of an ocean prevented them from getting together. Reading the prose you get a sense of longing by both brothers to reconnect, but the reality of feeding new mouths at the table and raising families always prevented each from doing what was in their hearts. A trip to New York would be too expensive. A trip to Sicily would be frivolous. So the gap remained between them.
It would be a hundred years from the time of the family’s separation before the reunion of the two families took place. It is a story, wonderfully told, of sad times, happy adventures and special moments and memories that last a lifetime.
Anyone who has grown up with stories about their family’s journey to America will appreciate and enjoy the book. Whether read alone or to children, the story’s poignant moments are balanced with the kind of humor that Italians are so well-known for. The nicknames and descriptions of the characters are comical. For example, the author is known as ‘the General.’ There is also “Giggles,’ the “Movie Star’ and ‘Muscles,’ with their family roots traced back to the earlier generations of characters. Geared toward a younger audience, the book is a perfect way to bridge the generations by having a grandparent tell the story to their grandchildren. The kids will love the illustrations and it will give the grandparent an opportunity to do a little performance for the children. In the end, the book tells of the story of love and devotion. The lessons that are taught in lovely prose will ring true both now and for future generations to come. Some things, such as family values, will never go out of style.
This book will also serve as an encouragement to others who are curious about their roots and may inspire them to investigate where their ancestors originated – and most importantly – to see if there are family members left in the ‘old world’s old neighborhood.’
About the Author
When she’s not immersed in creating prose, Jackie Brida Fischer enjoys her career as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist specializing in Cardiac Rehabilitation. She also treasures sharing her leisure time with her husband and son, as they all enjoy traveling, hiking, skiing, tennis and playing with their dog Woody.
The book’s wonderful Illustrations are by Marialuisa Paladino, while the coordinator of photographs was by Francesca Paladino. The book is available on Amazon.com/author/JackieFischer.
CAPTIONS (for scans)
In Marsala, Sicily, Gaspare Titone, is pictured with his wife, Giuseppa and their first son, Tommaso. The author and her mother, Frances Titone Brida, traveled to Marsala to meet her first cousin, Tommaso Titone, who was 89 at the time.
Frances and Carlo Titone on their wedding day in the America.