Gilda’s Promise To The Pope Starts A Life Of Achievements. Book Review Of Gilda, Promise Me

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Gilda, Promise Me starts when she is 16 and meets the Pope… At his request, she makes a promise to learn Italian and never to forget her roots. All throughout the book, you can see how that promise keeps her going in the right direction. Gilda’s memoir is the story of a woman who thinks: “Why educate a woman and deny her full self-expression?”

Keeping that in mind, let’s examine a few of her achievements: she became an interpreter and from that a journalist, then a model, an actress of many movies, and all this in a foreign country speaking a foreign language.

She then chose to teach so as not to disappoint her parents who may have objected to a career in the movie world. Was she just a teacher? No, she went on to teach on TV, having an enormous success. But did she stop there? Certainly not. She traveled all over the world, learned other languages, brought help to Haiti, was in charge of desegregation in the schools of this area of New Jersey, became an Honorary Consul for the Italian government and then received the knighthood from Italy.

Did she ever stop? You know the answer: no. She is still active in her volunteering efforts and this year she received, along with her daughter Mary Rorro, New Jersey Governor’s Jefferson Award, considered the highest honor in America for service and volunteerism.

But this memoir is not just an account of her achievements; it’s the story of her roots, two Italian American families, their dreams, their accomplishments, and their shared love for each other.
It’s the story of her own family, her unbounded love for her first husband and the tragedy of his untimely loss, her wonderful relationship with her children, the house they built.
It’s the story of a woman who felt the bitterness of discrimination, both as a woman and as an Italian American, but who did not let that stop her.
It’s a story of a woman who tried to rebuild a life with a second husband just to be stricken down with another tragedy.
It’s a real memoir, a story of a successful woman who loved, dedicated herself to her family and even so achieved so much.
It’s an intriguing book that it’s a significant cultural contribution both to the Italian American studies and to the women studies.
In a few words, a book that needs to be read, and we are certain that the readers will agree with us, after reading the book, that Gilda’s promise to the Pope was kept.

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“Pretender” Is Haunting In Our Political Environment… Exclusive Interview With Author Steve Piacente [L’IDEA Magazine]

“Pretender” is Haunting in our political environment… Exclusive interview with author Steve Piacente

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Steve Piacente

I met Steve Piacente twice before, at the New York International Book Expo, and had a plan to interview him for our magazine, but our schedules tended to be intense and I missed that opportunity until now. Steve has recently published the novel “Pretender,” which Kirkus Reviews called “haunting in our political environment,” and our paths crossed again, so here is the interview that he kindly was available to give for L’Idea Magazine.

L’Idea: Your first novel, “Bella,” was the winner of a National Indie Excellence 2012 Book Award and of the Readers’ Favorite 2012 Gold Medal for Dramatic Fiction. “Bootlicker,” the prequel to “Bella,” was the winner of the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal for Southern Fiction. Are these two books tied to your new novel, “Pretender,” or are they independent? What is the main theme of these two books?
Steve Piacente: First, thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself – it’s a pleasure to meet the readers of L’Idea! All three of my novels were inspired by my first career as a journalist. I was raised just outside New York City, but my twenty-five years in daily newspapers took me to America’s Deep South, where attitudes about race, tolerance, and nearly everything else were far more conservative than where I grew up. When my New York sensibilities collided with Southern culture, ideas began forming that would take shape much later in the form of three separate novels. A few of my characters appear in the pages of all three books, but each story stands alone. One would not have to read the first, for instance, for the third to make sense.
Bella is the story of a widow’s quest to uncover the truth behind her husband’s mysterious death on an Afghan battlefield. The story pairs the grieving widow with Dan Patragno, an unhappily married Washington journalist. Their search for the truth yields lessons about the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either – even for a moment.
Bootlicker opens in 1959 with poor, black teen Ike Washington stumbling on a Ku Klux Klan lynching led by a white judge named Mac McCauley. Caught, he must choose: join the dead man or begin hustling black support the judge needs to advance. In trade, Ike is handed a life of comfort and power. Decades later, guilt-wracked “Big Ike” Washington is poised to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War. Reporter Dan Patragno – the veteran journalist from Bella, now in the role of a rookie reporter – uncovers the truth just before Election Day. The themes in this book center on personal ambition, self-forgiveness, and redemption.

L’Idea: “Pretender” is your latest novel. What is it about?
Steve Piacente: Pretender begins with Dan, our star reporter from Bella and Bootlicker in big trouble. The disgraced journalist stumbles on a story that will let him reclaim his career, but redemption comes with a price: he must place his faith in Mac McCauley, the racist U.S. senator he once exposed as a murderer.
Fast-rising star Patragno had been thinking Pulitzer Prize until he violated one of journalism’s key tenets and wound up blackballed from the industry. Career shot, marriage in tatters and bills looming, he takes the only job he can find – manager at a Washington, D.C. Laundromat. As Dan struggles to accept his new station, a fateful note arrives from ex-Senator McCauley offering a jailhouse interview. If the story McCauley offers is true, it will rock the political world and open Dan’s path back to the industry he loves.
What Dan learns is this: McCauley had an affair with a black woman shortly after arriving in Washington in 1960. The union produced a son that McCauley and his mistress have kept secret for forty years. Now eighty-four and in failing health, God-fearing McCauley believes he must come clean to earn absolution. The revelation will destroy his legacy in a state that in 2002 still proudly displays the Confederate Flag.
It will also upend the lives of his two sons: J.B., the textile magnate in a heated race for his father’s old Senate seat; and Thomas, the biracial son no one knows, a university professor who has long resented the father who scorned him.
Dan is torn, for the path to redemption requires him to walk hand in hand with the nation’s most notorious segregationist, and to expose facts that both sons desperately want to be kept secret.
Must an act be illegal to be a crime? Who decides if the offender is worthy of forgiveness? Pretender explores the raw instincts that inform our choices and drive our actions, sometimes with consequences that span generations.

(Watch here the wonderful trailer for Pretender)

L’Idea: You are an author, a communications trainer, a certified life coach, and an associate professor. How did you get to this point of your life, professionally speaking?
Steve Piacente: It’s true. I have fingers in many pots, but everything is connected. Being a life coach hopefully makes me a more perceptive communications trainer. Being an author has hopefully made me a more relatable university writing instructor. Getting to this point was never the plan. On the contrary, I fully expected to remain in journalism. A decline in the industry around 2000 resulted in my job being eliminated, however, and I had to reinvent myself. Donning my life-coaching hat a moment, I learned in that period that the cliché about every challenge being an opportunity is quite true. My time as a reporter honed skill sets that transferred nicely to several professions – teaching, public relations, and, the field I went into next, speechwriting (at a U.S. federal agency). That evolved into a communications management position. The takeaway is that personal reinvention is healthy. Continuous learning keeps you fresh. Adding to your repertoire makes you more interesting – both to your clients and to yourself! Another thing I learned is that emptying the well doesn’t drain you. The well keeps replenishing, so long as you love what you’re doing.

L’Idea: You are originally from Brooklyn, lived in the South of the USA and you are an Italian American. How did your roots and geographical background influence your job choices, your life in general and your writing?
Steve Piacente: We’re all products of our heritage and experiences, and take that combination of nature and nurture travel with us wherever we go. As a writer, I believe putting myself into unfamiliar and unexpected circumstances is a great way to uncover new material.  My wife is also Italian-American, and we made our first trip to Italy a few years ago. It was so exciting to walk the streets of Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi and to think that this is where the Piacentes began so long ago. I would like to explore my roots more and perhaps write something related to my family’s origins at some point.

L’Idea: How much did the activity as a correspondent in Washington D.C. influence your writing as a novelist?
Steve Piacente: I date myself here, but I was in college in Washington, D.C. during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon. If you were interested in writing at that time, you pretty much went into journalism. The problem was that there was a lot of competition. I remember applying for a job in California and some editor telling me to forget it – he could have 100 qualified applicants in his office in hours. Why would he fly in some unproven kid from across the country? I saved that letter as I embarked on a 25-year in print journalism, including 15 years as a Washington correspondent. I don’t like when anyone tells me I can’t do something I know I can do. Flash forward to writing fiction. Toward the end of my newspaper career, I went back to school for a Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University. That was the start of my three novels, and a non-fiction book now in the works.

L’Idea: Are you already working on the next novel? Do you have any other projects in the work?
Steve Piacente: I am now at work on a self-help book aligned with my life-coaching practice. The book is based on interviews with fifteen people who shared their hell-and-back stories, and the life lessons they learned. My hope is that reading this book –Your New Fighting Stance – will help others a bit further back in their careers deal with similar obstacles they will surely face down the road. I expect to publish in early 2019.

Steve Piacente at a book presentation

L’Idea: Who is the writer who inspired you the most and how?
Steve Piacente: There were many: Hemingway, Updike, Steinbeck, plus authors like Annie Proulx and Philip Roth, and writers such as Anne Lamott and Stephen King. I am actually most indebted to the mentors I had when starting as a newspaper writer, and later in my fiction classes, who encouraged me to absorb what I could from the writers I loved, but to develop my own style as well.

L’Idea: If you had the opportunity to meet face to face with any personality from the past, or the present, who would you like to meet and why? What would you tell them?
Steve Piacente: I would love to sit down with one of the most famous Italian Americans, Frank Sinatra. I find Sinatra’s story fascinating and would love to ask questions that go beyond what the public knew about his tumultuous career. I would like to chat with Steinbeck about his writing process, and tell him how much he meant to me as a young writer. Finally, I would love to ride down the Mississippi River with Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and discuss the human condition, where we have landed in the summer of 2018, and where we will be a decade from now.

L’Idea: Do you have a message for our readers who desire to become writers?
Steve Piacente: Write because you love to write, and for no other reason. Not for money, not for fame. Do it for the pure joy of creating something from nothing. Know that there will be pain, disappointment, and, as Anne Lamott says, plenty of shitty first drafts. But know as well that the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment is there at the other end, and there is nothing quite as spectacular.

You can find more information on Steve Piacente’s life coaching at https://www.stevepiacente.com/

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Let’s Meet a Rising Star: An Exclusive interview with the soprano AnnaMaddalena Capasso [OperaMyLove Magazine]

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

A young and very promising soprano is having a great success in Italy and we at OperaMyLove were fortunate to meet her for an interview. 

OperaMyLove:  You are very young, yet you have been in the opera world for a while. What prompted your interest in this field?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso:  I was five when I saw for the first time at the San Carlo of Naples “La Bohème”  by Puccini. After the show, I told to my mother:” When I grow up I’ll be an opera singer!”

OperaMyLove:  Which character did you find more challenging to prepare for, and perform?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: Every role has its own difficulty, but one of the most complex for me it was Elvira from I Puritani by Vincenzo Bellini.

OperaMyLove:  Which soprano do you admire the most and why?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: Maria Callas has been the greatest interpreter of the 20thcentury. I love her. When I was younger, someone told me that I looked like her, aesthetically. Destiny wants me to have Greek ancestors from my mother and this inspires me even more.

OperaMyLove:  What has been the most rewarding performing experience you had so far?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: I had many rewarding experiences, but what I will remember for a lifetime was during a Christmas concert in a church in the Quartieri Spagnoli of Naples. I interpreted the Virgin Mary who was singing the Brahms’s lullaby to Jesus. The audience went into raptures; they said that I really looked like a sacred image. (Truthfully she does have a resemblance to some of the paintings of the Virgin Mary…)

OperaMyLove:  Who is the opera character that you would love to be cast in? Why?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: I’d like to interpret “Lucia of Lammermoor” by Donizetti. She is very macabre, romantic, strong and fragile character. I like to play such complex characters.

OperaMyLove:  What were your recent performances? Did you find them challenging? Rewarding? To your satisfaction?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: My last interpretation has yet to come, it’s always a challenge! I will never be satisfied!

OperaMyLove:  Who is the performer you were thrilled to work with and why?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: More than with an interpreter I’d like to work with a great conductor Daniel Barenboim, I love his way of directing.

OperaMyLove:  Do you have any upcoming projects?
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: Sure! I’m making a series of videos to introduce the world of the opera to as many people as possible! Follow me on my Instagram account @the_eternal_diva or my YouTube channel! (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFJRAw0u55r9D0QtDSgUI3w) You will see some beautiful ones!!

OperaMyLove:  I read that you are a passionate fan of your hometown soccer team, A.C. Napoli. Was this passion passed on to you by your father? Do you have any other passions and/or hobbies? 
AnnaMaddalena Capasso: Yes, It’s true! I often go to the stadium; it’s a passion that was born alone! Sometimes I say that I have “blue blood”… (AnnaMaddalena laughs) ! In Naples everything is blue!
I have so many passions, one of these is the Manga; I go to the comic convention in Cosplay, the last character I Played was Sailor Moon at Napoli Comicon.
I really like reading literature classics; I love Disney’s movies and doing outdoor sports: swimming, diving, archery, running, climbing and above all, traveling! On the other hand, as Shakespeare said:”The whole world is a stage!”

 

AnnaMaddalena Capasso is a lyric coloratura soprano. With a distinctive voice and a strong ability to interpret, she was born in Torre del Greco on 04/07/1992.
AnnaMaddalena grew up in a family of artists in the graphic field. From an early age she showed a strong tendency in the music. She began studying opera singing at five. At sixteen she was admitted to the Conservatory of Music San Pietro a Majella in Naples, where she graduated in opera singing. Meanwhile, she participated in numerous opera performances, including “La Traviata” by Verdi at the Museum Donnaregina of Naples, ” Dialogues of the Carmelites ” by Poulenc at the Conservatory of Naples. At nineteen, she graduated from the high school with the linguistic project Jug, where in addition to deepen the study of modern languages it expands to the study of classical languages.

She participated in numerous national and international competitions for opera singers, including the X Singing Competition organized by the International Institute for Opera and Poetry and the Fondazione Arena di Verona and the VII international opera competition “Magda Olivero,” always receiving great appreciation by the jury. AnnaMaddalena won the third prize in the XIII National Competition of music created by ” Lions Club ” in Mercato San Severino.  She interpreted in the Opera ”Mas’Aniello” by Jacopo Napoli the roles of The Queen and Marco Vitale. The same year she participated in a Master Class on the work held by the German master Adi Bar, interpreting the arias of the Queen of Night from ” The Magic Flute ” by Mozart. She also attended a lecture by M. Irene Crodelia Huberti. She performed in several concerts with the ” Cantori di Posillipo ”.

In the year 2014/2015, she attended a specialization course in opera at academy of Osimo, studying with Raina Kabaivanska, Harriet Lawson, William Matteuzzi, Anna Vandi, Alla Simoni, Carlo Morganti, Angelo Gabrielli and the artistic director of the San Carlo theater and Opera Academy Vincenzo De Vivo.

In December 2015, she took part in the Bohème by Puccini at the Teatro La Nuova Fenice in Osimo.

She took part in Bizet’s Carmen held at the same directed by Matteo Mazzoni, with the participation of Luca Violini and the conduction of Maestro Alessandro Benigni.

In May 2016 she participated in historical staging of Fedora (Giordano)  directed by Lamberto Puggelli at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, conducted by Asher Fisch and Maurizio Agostini.

In July 2016, she performed the Nabucco of G. Verdi to the Reggia of Caserta with Leo Nucci, the conduction of Daniel Oren and the direction by Stefano Trespidi.
She was awarded the ‘Naples in the World’ award.

She sings in five languages: French, English, German, Spanish and Japanese. Her repertoire ranges from the Opera to sacred music.

 Gallery

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2018 International Book Show In New York A Repeated Success [L’IDEA MAGAZINE]

 

2018 International Book Show in New York a repeated success

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena

It was not the huge-size exhibit of the past years and there were some big publishing names missing, but overall the International Book Expo repeated itself as a successful show equally for the authors, the publishers and the interested visitors formed by librarians, would-be authors, journalists and readers.

Gone were some of the extravagant displays and although that made it less glamorous, it also made it more professional looking.

Sylvia Medina

 

Among the many authors encountered, some were personable and interesting, making their presence a success by itself. Sylvia Medina, for example, with her book Elee and the Shining Star, illustrated by Morgan Spicer, brought some fresh air into the children’s book s section. The narrative may not be entirely innovative or unexpected, but it flows nicely and it certainly has a moral to it. The illustrations are pleasant and I am sure kids will love this book for both the pictures and the story.

 

A book that was unusual for its illustrations is Santa’s Sleigh-Train, by E. Dorinda Shelley. The artist, Eleanor A. Hutton, used a child-like style that we could call neo-naïf if we want to label it, to accompany the charming narrative that could make even a Grinch smile… A wonderful book aimed at young children.

E. Dorinda Shelley (right) with Eleanor A. Hutton

C. Tony Graham

A Young Adult series of books was presented by C. Tony Graham in an attractive booth of her own. Surrounded by images of her books, she gladly expounded on the Crossroads series. An award winning writer, she explained about the four teens who were whisked away to the Otherworld, a land in a different dimension and the adventures that ensued…

Bill Fortenbough

 

For the adult readers, the choices were many. In the nonfiction section one could find the well written history of the A Cat Ghost, a 28- foot, Marconi rigged catboat, with original pictures that show the various phases of its construction and some of the races to which it participated (it won seven consecutive races). From Beaton’s to Beach Haven, written by Bill Fortenbough, is definitely a great book for people who love boats and sailing.

Abby Denson

A comic book writer’s off-beat, upbeat tour of Tokyo, Cool Tokyo, by Abby Denson, offers a fun approach to this magnificent Asian city, and it’s a smart choice for travelers who want to know more and not get bored with data and statistics. The illustrations are fun and meant to make you smile while gathering information about local customs, places to visit, food to eat and much more…

A story that inspires and delights, The Bellman, by Heidi Barnes, is a novel in the classic American storytelling style that presents colorful characters in a picturesque backdrop. In a historic mansion on the majestic coast of Maine, turned into a luxury inn, a young local man who wanted to join the circus is hired as a bellman and, observing the guests, he soon realizes that The Maycliff is quite similar to that world that he wanted to join and… we’ll let the readers find out how life at that Maine inn is really like…

Heidi Barnes with her editor

Heidi Barnes with her editor

 

Wednesday Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bold, timely reconsideration of female infidelity that upends everything we’ve been taught about women and sex, Untrue is a book that will be the talk of the town when published, in September. The author, Wednesday Martin, had previously a #1 New York Times bestseller and she intends to repeat her feat with this in-depth study of women’s sexual behavior.

The Dictionary of Animal Languages is a novel by Heidi Sopinka, unlike the title may lead you to believe. The life of a woman is progressed through the book in chapters that have animal names and to which somehow the developing story refers to. It’s an exciting tale about an artist, her escape from a war-torn Europe and her final work, a vast account of animal languages.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena with the author Heidi Sopinka

Italian-American writers’ presence was strong and noticeable. Among them I’d like to note Michael Franzese and his expanded edition of Blood Covenant, the story of the “Mafia Prince” who publicly quit the Mob and lived to tell about it. A review will follow in a separate article.

Another respectable author  was Bill Petrocelli and his Through the Bookstore Window, a riveting novel about the grim effects of war and  violence while exploring how love can transcend age, gender, background, and, perhaps, the readers’ expectations.

Terry Nemeth (left), Publisher of American Theatre magazine

An English author of Italian origins, Nadia Dalbuono is known for her series of books dedicated to the fictitious Italian investigator Leone Scamarcio and she came to the Expo with another one of these stories, The Few, ‘an unsettling detective thriller set in the dark heart of the corrupt Italian political system’, a wonderful surprise for her fans.

 

Altogether I can easily state, after talking to the many exhibitors, that the Expo was successful, but many unknowns still remain: will this Book Show keep on shrinking? Will the visitors decide to attend different exhibitions, which have in the meanwhile sprouted after the temporary move to Chicago, instead of this one? Only time will tell, but I hope that the trend will revert and the International Book Show will return to have the grandeur it used to have.

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Being Italian; Interview With The Author Marianna Biazzo Randazzo [L’IDEA MAGAZINE]

by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Marianna Randazzo is an Italian-American author from New York City. Teacher, wife, mother and grandmother, she taught for over 35 years, both in the educational system of NYC and as an instructor at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. After retirement, she devoted all her energies to teaching Italian culture. Marianna is an officer in Staten Island’s Capodanno Lodge of the Sons of Italy in America Association.
“Given Away, The Rest of the Story,” published by Idea press, is a novel, based on a true story, which follows the progress of her family, from Sicily to the US starting at the turn of the Second World War and through the post-war years The original book “Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing,” which was the winner of the NYS Grand Lodge Sons of Italy Literary Award in 2016. was also translated in Italian and published by Idea Press (“Lontano Da Casa, Educazione in Sicilia”)

     Her other publications include the biography “Brooklyn’s Best: The Michael Behette Story,” “The Italians of Brooklyn,” several children’s books and numerous articles on education and the Italian diaspora. Marianna is also a columnist for L’Idea Magazine (NY).

     In addition to her hard work in the Italian American community, Marianna devotes her time to raising funds for The Huntington Disease Society of America, and to inform the public about that disease. Part of the proceeds of the sale of her books will be donated to this association (HDSA).

L’IDEA: Marianna, when did you start writing and what was your inspiration then?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: I probably started officially writing when I was about ten years old and learned about a “business letter.” I realized that writing gave everyone a voice. In school, we wrote mock complaint letters or requests for information. I remember encouraging my older brother to send a letter and drawings he had made to President Nixon. Surprisingly, Nixon sent us an autographed picture of himself from the White House. What a thrill! It was then I realized the power of words.

L’IDEA: Is “Given Away” a novel or a biography? Who are the main characters and are they still alive?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: Given Away is based on a true story. Tina, the protagonist, is still alive and was born in 1931. She is the last surviving sister of the Arezzi family. At 87, she continues to share the details of the years that were written about in the book. She will attest to the fact that all of the details of her Sicilian Upbringing are true. Some names, places, and dates have been changed to protect the innocent!

L’IDEA: “Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing” seems to have evolved into a different book of a sort in “Given Away, The Rest of the Story.” Could you elaborate on that?
Marianna Biazzo RandazzoGiven Away, A Sicilian Upbringing was a story that waited over 70 years to be told by an 83-year-old woman.  It was not until I was an adult that I learned about the very different lives that my mother and her sister Tina lead as children. Hearing only one side of a family’s history from my mom, I found it incredulous that these two sisters had such polar opposite existences in two towns probably less than 10 miles apart. It was then I learned the whole story.  After the first book was written people wanted to know more about the sisters,  the story took on a life of its’ own. I also needed to learn more and with my cousin Lisa Arezzi, the daughter of one of the siblings, we visited the hometown and the actual house where the story took place. We spent 10 days in Ragusa, Sicily.
With the help and encouragement of my editor, Tiziano, The Rest of the Story was written with Tina willing to contribute about another hundred pages to the original book.

L’IDEA: You just published a new book with Arcadia, “Italians of Brooklyn.” Could you tell us something about that?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: After writing the Given Away books, I became more immersed in my Italian culture, roots, and heritage. As a school teacher for over 30 years, I had a different focus on life. I was busy raising my three children and in the end years of my parents’ lives, caring for them. Being Italian was not something I thought much about during my earlier years. It was just who I was, naturally. I cooked Italian, I spoke Italian, I followed traditions and customs, and as a child, I even assumed everyone was Italian.
Once I retired from teaching, I volunteered at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. I was shocked to find an Italian American Museum in Staten Island! I soaked up all I could about the actual inventor of the telephone and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Their extensive library opened my eyes to everything Italian. I was soon recruited to be the Director of School Programs and media specialist, jobs I loved because they combined two of my favorite things, education, and culture. I decided to create multimedia presentations about my books and Italian themed subjects. Soon I wanted to write about every Italian since Christopher Columbus and John Cabot! I approached Arcadia Publishing with several of my ideas and remembered the adage, write what you know!
I knew Brooklyn; I lived it, I breathed it, I loved it. My children were also raised in Brooklyn, and I believe they are forever grateful. When I presented my idea to Arcadia, even though they are based in South Carolina, they loved the Brooklyn aspect of it, and they said, “Everyone loves an Italian!”
The book was a challenge. The series is called Images of America, so I had to collect almost 200 original photographs that would tell a story. I didn’t want to buy pictures because although they may have been iconic, they were not meaningful to me. Instead, I reached out to Italians through social media, friends, and families. I interviewed dozens of people from the iceman’s daughter, Angela Solomon, to the founder and creator of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America, Commendatorore Aldo Mancusi.  I was invited to view the photo archives of churches and Italian American organizations.
I was touched by how many people opened their homes and photo albums to me. I wished I could write a book about each one of them! The challenge was telling the story around the photo in a way that depicted the Italian American experience in New York. I hope I did it justice. The second biggest challenge was learning how to scan hundreds of photos at just the right quality.

L’IDEA: What is your current connection to the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: I retired from my positions at the museum to babysit my grandchildren but there is something special about that place that keeps one coming back.  In 2018, I was elected a Commissioner on the Board of the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is owned and operated by The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America and I am the historian of the Sons of Italy, Fr. Vincent Capodanno Lodge #212. True to Italian culture, we are like one big family.

L’IDEA: What is going to be your next literary effort?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: Now that I have Arcadia’s attention, I proposed a book about Fr. Vincent Capodanno and Vietnam Veterans. Vincent Robert Capodanno was a Roman Catholic priest who was killed in action in 1967 while serving as a United States Navy chaplain assigned to a Marine Corps infantry unit during the Vietnam War. He was a posthumous recipient of America’s highest military decoration. In 2002, Capodanno’s Cause for Canonization was officially opened, and he is now referred to as a Servant of God.
I am also working on a book with Professor William Castello, a fabulous artist. Bill draws portraits, and I tell the stories. The first in the series will be a compilation of Italian men and women, entertainers, saints, scientists, politicians, and other interesting people.
Another project I have going on is the memoirs of a Syrian-American woman and her experiences as one of the first patrolwoman/police officers in New York City. Several years ago, I wrote a book about her son, Brooklyn’s Best: The Michael Behette Story, Michael was a firefighter who served the FDNY and passed away from cancer-related to his service during the World Trade Center disaster. While writing that book I got to know his extraordinary mother and realized hers was a story to be told as well.

L’IDEA: Do you have any future book presentations that our readers can attend?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: Yes and I’ll give you a list you can publish…

Barnes and Nobles, Discussion/book signing
Saturday, July 28, 2018, 2:00 PM
Park Slope, 267 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-832-9066

Sons of Italy, Fr. Vincent  Capodanno Lodge #212
Helmsley Hall:  4 Arthurkill Rd. Staten Island,
Tuesday, August 6, 2018 (Panel with two other Italian American Authors)
7:30-9:00

BookMark Bookstore
August 10, 2018
6:00-10:00 PM
Summer Stroll on 3rd Ave.
Book Signing
8415 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209
(More info to follow)

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum/Italians of Brooklyn/ Presentation
Sunday, September 30, 2018
2:00 PM
420 Tompkins Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10305

Greenbelt Conservancy
700 Rockland Avenue
Staten Island, NY
Thursday, October 4, 2018
6:30-8:30
Multimedia Presentation: New York Immigrant Experience

L’IDEA: You want to organize an “Italian American Writers Literary Festival” with the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum and Fr. Capodanno Lodge #212. What is that and will it work?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: Festa Italiana at Mount Loretto, Pleasant Plains in Staten Island is  believed  to be “the biggest Columbus Day celebration in history.” Last year, people enjoyed live entertainment, meeting celebrities, dancing,  rides,  arts and crafts, visiting representatives from Staten Island’s cultural institutes and clubs, and eating their way through the all-day affair. According to Borough Hall, 10,000 people attended the event on one day! The Garibaldi- Meucci Museum and the Sons of Italy, Fr. Capodanno Lodge #212 took the opportunity to introduce visitors to Italian-American authors. This year, I would like this literary endeavor to grow and have requested several booths and have invited many more Italian-American authors to join us. We are hoping to attract book lovers of all ages to meet and enjoy an array of accomplished and emergent authors.  The event will take place on Saturday, October, 4, 2018. Mt. Loretto is located at 6581 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island, NY.

L’IDEA: Is there a message you want to send to people who feel that they have a story to tell, but they are afraid they don’t know how to do it or get it to the public?
Marianna Biazzo Randazzo: Everyone has a story to tell, if not their own perhaps a family member or a poem, or a work of fiction. Don’t fear the pen (or in today’s time, the computer) Start small, tell someone the story, get feedback,  write it down, send it to a newspaper, a magazine. There are guides to magazine writing in the library; they have everything you need listed in them.   Many people come to me and tell me they have written books, usually what they have written are the beginnings of a book. If you are serious about writing, take a writing course. I still take online courses as I have no interest in getting any more degrees. I also took a storytelling class which led me to participate in a MOTH performance (true stories told live,)   There are meet-up writing groups and free classes at the library.  I like to teach memoir writing classes so follow me on Facebook, and you will find me! I could also be reached at mrandazzo3@gmail.com.
Writing helps you to connect with your life again; it is a great outlet. If you love nonfiction as I do, writing gives you the opportunity to do tons of research, which I sometimes enjoy more than the writing itself. Don’t be discouraged; even if you are never published it could be your legacy to others in the future.

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Poet, Model, Figure Skater And Inspiration For Young People, Elizabeth Pipko Will Come To The International Book Expo

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena for L’Idea Magazine

Elizabeth Pipko, 22, was born and raised in New York City. At ten years old she discovered her love of figure skating and moved with her family to Florida in order to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive athlete. She competed for years in various competitions across the United States before suffering a devastating injury at 15, after which doctors told her that she would never skate again. During her long recovery, Elizabeth finished and published her first collection of poetry, “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013. She also began her modeling career, being featured in DT magazine, Maxim, Esquire and many more.  Elizabeth also starred in the Vizcaya Swimwear “Perfectly Imperfect” campaign, an anti-photoshop campaign promoting positive body image which was covered by major publications such as PEOPLE and Vanity Fair Italia. After years of physical therapy, Elizabeth has made her return to the ice, defying all odds and hoping to inspire those around her. Elizabeth is currently a student at the Harvard extension school, majoring in legal studies and double minoring in religion and math. Her second collection of poetry, “About You,” is due for release in early summer 2018. She will appear at the International Book Expo in New York City.

L’IDEA: You are a poet, a model, a figure skater and so much more, even though you are only 22. Which one is the title you feel depicts you more accurately and why?
Elizabeth Pipko: I think I am a figure skater before I am anything else. And I say that certainly not because I am a brilliant skater, but because figure skating is where I found myself. Only after discovering the sport did I discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Everything in my life changed when I fell in love with the sport. Some things got better and some things got worse, but somehow it all felt extremely right. I felt like I was born to be a figure skater when I first fell in love with the ice at ten years old, and I think I’ll forever feel that way.

L’IDEA: Did you always have the poetry bug in you or was it inspired by your life events?
Elizabeth Pipko: I think I’ve always liked writing and felt as if I was better at it than I was in certain other things, but it was never something I did regularly. Only after certain life events caused me to need to find an outlet for my emotions did I realize how much I enjoyed poetry.

L’IDEA: What is your poetry about
Elizabeth Pipko: It’s about a lot of things… For me, I used poetry to express the heartbreak I felt as a sixteen-year-old girl trying to deal with a devastating injury (that took skating away from me) as well as the very common heartbreaks that a sixteen year old girl may face. My second book, About You, was written about my injury and losing the ability to skate, but without ever directly mentioning those words. I wanted people to be able to connect with the words and emotions that I was feeling regardless of what or who it was that they were longing for.

L’IDEA: How important was it to you to return to ice skating and why?
Elizabeth Pipko: It was extremely important to me for many reasons. My parents raised me not to be a quitter. My mom taught me to always follow my dreams, and always prepared me for the many obstacles I would have to overcome in order to do that. And more importantly, showed me how to overcome those obstacles with everything I’ve watched her deal with in her career (she’s possibly the most incredible concert pianist you’ve ever heard). I always knew that this was something I had to do. And whether I make a full recovery and reach the top levels of the sport or just overcome the obstacles that come with trying to skate through pain every day, I’ll always be proud of myself for not giving up.

L’IDEA: In your bio it says you moved from New York to Florida to ice skate and that may confuse our readers, considering the climate of the two cities. Could you elaborate on that?
Elizabeth Pipko: It does sound quite funny now that I think about it! Competitive figure skaters train in skating rinks indoors, so the climate outside is not really the one that we focus on. I discovered incredible coaches, actually completely on accident and without ever planning on pursuing skating, and they’re the ones that introduced me to skating and believed in me from the start. So, my parents and brother packed up and moved down to Florida in order for me to skate with those coaches and follow my dream. 

Photo by Nayo Martinez

L’IDEA: You participated as a model in the campaign “Perfectly imperfect”. Could you explain what that is about?
Elizabeth Pipko: Yup! So Lisa (the owner of Vizcaya swimwear) and I really bonded over what we had been through with dealing with negative comments and cyber bullying and decided to do something using those experiences. We wanted to do something special and something that would feel natural, and also inspire people not to be ashamed of the skin they were born in. The point of the campaign was to show the swimwear and how good it made you feel to be wearing it, and we decided that we could do that without needing an ounce of retouching! Just like in life.

L’IDEA: Would you have a special message for our readers? And maybe a suggestion for our young readers?
Elizabeth Pipko: Always always always follow your dreams! I promise people will stand in your way, sometimes even people who you thought were your biggest fans. But the ONLY person that you needed believing in you, in order to succeed, is YOU.

For more information on Elizabeth Pipko, visit Elizabethpipko.com

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Dr. Mary Rorro, The “Violin Doc,” An Exclusive Interview [L’IDEA Magazine]

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
She was nicknamed “The Violin Doc” in a book by Lisa Wong entitled “Scales to Scalpels, Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine;”  a talented professional viola player and a respected psychiatrist who uses her music to heal veterans, Dr. Mary Rorro is so much more and we are proud to present an exclusive interview with this bright star of the medical field who is finding many ways to help her patients.


L‘IDEA: You are a psychiatrist working with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and blending music and poetry into your practice. It seems that music has always been a major factor in your life. Could you tell us when did you start to use music as a healing tool? {Talk about your Music major, awards but also about the middle school and following years too, please)
Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was six and a half years old, my mother showed me her little violin that she used to play as a child.  I cherished that violin and toted it around in its diminutive case.  My mother, my talented brother Michael and I used to play together to Suzuki records, and listened to Italian arias and Neapolitan songs with my grandparents. The first time I witnessed the power of music was as my grandfather was dying in his hospital bed.  I played Toselli’s Serenade for him, a favorite song he frequently requested.  His last words were “More music.” As a candy striper in high school, my mother encouraged me to entertain the ill patients under my charge.  She witnessed as I played for a depressed cancer patient who had not spoken for months, who suddenly began to sing along with my violin to Christmas carols, bringing the nurses to tears.  That inspiring moment influenced me to combine my desire to be a physician and blend music into my profession. We recognized the healing power of music to those suffering that day. My mother was so proud. I wanted to make her happy by sharing music with others, who needed it in the most essential way.
I majored in music and minored in biology at Bryn Mawr College and received the first Performing Arts Prize ever awarded at the college.  Bryn Mawr encouraged leadership opportunities for women and service to others.  I organized two benefit concerts for St. Christopher’s Hospital for children with AIDS, as President and first violist of the Bryn Mawr–Haverford College Symphony.  I developed a program in medical school and psychiatry residency called “Musical Rounds: The Next Best Thing to Grand Rounds,” and “From Soup to Notes,” to perform for people in soup kitchens.

L‘IDEA: Besides your practice, you also created a program of volunteers with a similar goal, “A Few Good Notes.” Could you tell us about it?
Dr. Mary Rorro: Given the enthusiastic response from my previous musical experiences, I wanted to introduce music into the lives of the veterans at my clinic and the New Jersey VA Healthcare System. I started a program called “A Few Good Notes,” in which I play viola for the patients in the group therapy sessions and individually in my office.  Some of my patients used to play instruments, and hearing me encouraged them to resume their musical instruments and join me in the program.  One of my patients brought his Dixieland band in to entertain nursing home patients with me in the Lyons VA.  The quiet room was instantly transformed with the sound of patients singing along to the upbeat rhythms.  Another patient, after hearing me play Amazing Grace in the office, was inspired to pick up his guitar again and also start reading the Bible, after he contemplated the words in the song.
I initiated a program at the VA that provides free guitar lessons for veterans, which enables them to experience the joy of music first hand.  We have volunteer guitar instructors who give generously of their time and it allows for engagement with other veterans in the Guitar Instruction Group (GIG.)  The clinic is now filled with the strumming sounds of vets on their instruments, and the waiting list for lessons is a long one.
Every year, we carol in Lyons and East Orange hospitals and recruit other employees to share their time and talents with veterans.  The program has been expanded nationally in the VA.  Some patients and employees who are part of our Healing Arts committee bring their guitars and other instruments, and sing along to my viola.
Music draws out stories from the patients, including one Vietnam vet who remembered his platoon sang Silent Night on a hill in Vietnam, causing a cease fire for that time on Christmas Eve.  Music evokes powerful emotions and enables the therapists and me to process them with the patients in group therapy settings.
The program has been featured on WQXR, the former classical music station of the New York Times, WNYC radio, the Dr. Oz website, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and AOL’s Homepage for Heroes.  I was featured as “The Violin Doc,” in the book “Scales for Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine,” by Lisa Wong, M.D.

Princeton Memorial ceremony at Monument Hall (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube of Dr. Mary Rorro’s program for the veterans)

L‘IDEA: You clearly had a call for music and became a professional violist. When and how did the call for medicine, and in particular psychiatry, come about? 
Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was 4 years old, I was riding in the car with my mother, and she asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I quickly responded, “A doctor, because I want to help people.”  My parents always encouraged me in my dream, from which I never wavered.  I was influenced by many members of my family, who were role models. I spent time in my father’s busy primary care practice, and observed grateful patients leaving his office.  He went on house calls early in the morning for people who he knew couldn’t afford to pay, but was dedicated to helping them.  My Aunt, Mary A. Rorro, M.D. was one of the trailblazing women physicians of her area.  Her “Uncle Doc” graduated from Hahnemann Medical School and encouraged her to go there from a young age.  Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s father, Samuel Alito Sr., was her teacher in high school and he awarded her with the science medal.  He knew she wanted to be a doctor and told her, “Never be discouraged from your dream.” She still has the report card envelope where he wrote other encouraging words about her future, since she valued them so much.  She graduated from Hahnemann in 1958, and married my Uncle Al.  He and my Uncle John also served the community as physicians. My Aunt Celeste received her Doctorate in Education and was Director of Teacher Certification and Academic Credentials in New Jersey.
I became interested in psychiatry after a rotation at UMDNJ-SOM medical school at a New Jersey state hospital.  Psychiatry seemed like a perfect way to blend narratives, creativity, and the arts into the medical profession.  I entered a Harvard Medical School program for psychiatry residency and began working with veterans in the VA system as well as other mental health institutes in Boston, including McLean Hospital, Cambridge Hospital.  Following residency, I completed a psychiatry Fellowship in Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.  The years of tests and training, long nights on call, sleeping on scratchy sheets, were all worth it when someone says, “You changed my life.”  I consider that to be a complement to my parents, because without their constant love and support, I would not be able to help my patients and hear those words.

L‘IDEA: Your poetry is very poignant and inspirational, bringing images of war and tortured souls. Do you write only about veterans’ experiences?
Dr. Mary Rorro: Veterans’ stories of trauma, grief, and loss inspired me to write poetry meant to help patients, and to honor them.  Some poems reflect themes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks.  Others relate to more specific trauma incidents and themes of moral injury and survivor guilt.  The patients’ often poignant, sometimes frightening narratives were compelling.  Poetry became a venue in which I could attempt to first process and then articulate the overwhelming emotions they experience.  I began to share my poetry, in hopes of helping them connect and progress in treatment.  The poems opened a new dialogue on aspects of their stories which they might not have touched upon during the standard medication management visit.
I also write other poetry and haiku based on nature and spiritual themes, and compose songs and song lyrics.

Click here to read one of her poems, Tunnel Rats

L‘IDEA: You have received innumerable awards both for your charitable and your professional work. Notwithstanding that they are all relevant and well deserved, is there one in particular that has meant more to you and why?
Dr. Mary Rorro: There are a few that are especially meaningful.  An award that had special meaning was from the American Foundation of Savoy Orders, a royal order in Italy.  They bestowed the Saints Maurice and Lazarus Bronze medal for charitable works at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  It was incredibly exciting to walk up the steps of the main altar to receive the beautiful bronze medal and proclamation of Vittorio Emanuele.  Performing at the Centennial Celebration mass of the Holy Rosary church in Washington D.C. with Supreme Court Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Antonin Scalia, and Nancy Pelosi, in attendance, was also a peak experience. It was an honor to be inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame, in the same year with Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
The Planetree organization’s Patient-Centered Excellence and Innovation Award (received by one of 10 individuals or programs internationally) for my “A Few Good Notes” program in Chicago, was significant for recognizing the importance of helping veterans through the arts.

L‘IDEA: Your father was a doctor and your mother is an icon of the Italian American community in New Jersey. How did this influence you in your personal life and your professional choices?
Dr. Mary Rorro: My late father, Dr. Louis Rorro, was a physician who was committed to helping patients in the community.  My mother, Dr. Gilda Rorro, was an educator and administrator in the Department of Education, and worked in civil rights.  She traveled to Haiti on numerous occasions to establish school exchange program with schools in Haiti and New Jersey.  In the past 20 years, she worked tirelessly to serve Italian Americans in the community as Honorary Vice Consul work and as Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. She was knighted by the President of Italy for development of her curriculum to put Italian heritage into all schools in New Jersey.  My parents instilled an appreciation of Italian language and culture, and we feel fortunate to have cherished family and friends in Italy. My wonderful husband Joseph also shares my love of Italian culture and music; we met at an Italian social club when I was a psychiatric resident in Boston.
My parents’ productivity and engagement in their careers motivated me toward my profession and I was proud of what they accomplished.  I was raised without limitations of what a girl or woman could achieve.  No matter how busy my patients were, they were always actively engaged in my development, taking me to music lessons, concerts, and trips to Europe, to broaden my education.  They were tremendous mentors, who influenced my life and left a legacy of serving others, which I strive to continue.  Their high school graduation gift was my viola, and one that truly keeps on giving.  I am forever indebted to my parents for guiding me in my goal to becoming a doctor and grateful they helped make my dream a reality.  They gave of themselves with genuine commitment to community, and to me.  My parents’ love and devotion enabled me to be fulfilled as a physician and musician, and aspire to help some many others, to live by their example.

Dr. Mary Rorro plays the viola for the mother Gilda in the occasion of her memoir’s presentation to the public

L‘IDEA: Are there any new projects in the near future?
Dr. Mary Rorro: I consider serving our veterans a patriotic mission. They have taught me so much about sacrifice and resilience. Blending music and poetry into my practice is a privilege and serves as a rewarding and creative means of deepening the doctor–patient bond. I have witnessed the powerful effects the arts can hold for patients and hope to distribute my collection of vignettes and poems to more veterans.  I plan to continue expanding the “A Few Good Notes” program so more patients become involved in music and the arts, as an invaluable tool to employ in their journey toward healing.

Veterans listening to Dr. Mary Rorro’s music (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube)

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