23 June, 2015

Eat Now, Talk Later by James Vescovi Spotlight!

Please join me in welcoming James Vescovi, author of Eat Now; Talk Later, a book about James's Italian grandparents, Tony and Desolina Vescovi to Celticlady's Reviews!

Eat Now; Talk Later contains stories that can be read before bed, on a lunch hour, or waiting in line. They can even be shared with friends who complain they have enough to read. At 150 pages, it’s a great summer read. Together they ask the question, “How do you make modern life run smoothly for grandparents who grew up when oxen were used for plowing and children left school after third grade to tend chickens?

This is not the usual immigrant-made-good tale. Tony and Desolina Vescovi were born on farms where life hadn’t changed for hundreds of years. When they came to America, they passed through a time-tunnel that brought them face-to-face with the 20th century. They found themselves puzzled by banking, supermarkets, college degrees, and the nuclear family. Tony tried to pay hospital bills in cash, and Desolina cursed into her phone whenever she reached voice mail. The tales in this collection chronicling their lives are poignant, hilarious, and bittersweet. In the words of Rome’s Italian Insider, “You do not have to be Italian...to appreciate Vescovi’s book!

This collection of 52 bite-size stories offers a twist on the American immigrant tale and is a testament to love, loyalty, and frequent half-truths. For those who not only like to eat, but love to cook, the book includes recipes. Topping it all off is a collection of family photos.

What Reviewers are saying

“Vescovi makes you wish you wish you could taste Tony’s wine, Desolina’s tortellini; makes you wish you had grandparents like these”. The Internet Review of Books

“Eat Now; Talk Later offers a model of how to tell family stories humorously yet respectfully, from a culture that isn’t tell-all”. Ambassador Magazine (National Italian American Foundation)

“The most endearing quality of Vescovi’s stories is without a doubt the genuine, laugh-while-you-are-reading humor, which he exposes without a trace of ridicule.” Catholic Fiction.net

“This memoir celebrates the breath of family life: loyalty, struggle, humor and love.” La Gazzetta Italiana

“A book for everyone, for those in Italy eager to know more of Italian Americans and for those who in this book can find their roots and laugh, smile and be moved.” Italian Heritage Magazine

You do not have to be Italian...to appreciate Vescovi’s book, as every story gives the reader an understanding of what it is like to have family with a foreign background.” Italian Insider, Rome

“Read it! It will make you realize just how precious our family members are, with all their quirks and their faults!” The Guiltless Reader

"Eat Now; Talk Later is well written and well edited. The author’s voice is engaging, as is his sympathy for his father….The photographs included with the text are lovely additions to the book…[as are] his grandparents’ favorite recipes.” Italophiles

James Vescovi’s essays about his eccentric grandparents have appeared in The New York TimesAlimentum Journal: The Literature of Food,Creative NonfictionNewsday, Gazetta Italiana, the anthology Our Roots Are Deep with Passion: New Essays by Italian-American Writers (Other Press), and other venues. His fiction and essays been published in Midwestern GothicThe New York Observer, the Georgetown Review, Calliope, and Natural Bridge. He teaches at high school English and lives in New York with his wife and three children. On warm Saturday afternoons, you can find him in his volunteer garden in Riverside Park trying desperately to make things grow.
Read an Excerpt


Desolina did not bother to apply for U.S. citizenship because she believed she would return to Italy after my grandfather had made his fortune. However, during World War II, Italian aliens in New York had to report regularly to an immigration government office so their movements could be watched, and Desolina grew tired of this routine. Moreover, it didn’t look like she would be returning to Italy to live high on the hog anytime soon—not with Tony making $45 per week. She decided it was time to become a U.S. citizen.
She dispatched my father down to the immigration office to get an application. Among the papers he brought back was a booklet with sample questions that might be asked during the exam. Desolina’s English was poor because she rarely ventured out of the neighborhood and, in her interactions with the outside world, she was assisted by family and friends. Now she would have to stand before an examiner alone.
My father tried to get her to study, but she didn’t take it seriously.
“Who makes the laws of the United States government?” he asked, sitting at the kitchen table while she cooked.
“Ai-bo! Ugh! What do you mean who makes the laws? The politicians make the laws, and they make them in their own self- interest,” Desolina said.
“How many years does a U.S. Supreme Court Justice serve?”
“Too many,” she said, throwing breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl. “Ai-bo!”
My father shook his head; Tony smirked behind his newspaper.
On the big day, my father accompanied his mother to the exam. He stood next to her as the examiner began the questions.
“Who freed the slaves?” he asked.
Desolina looked over at my father and asked, “Cos la dit? What did he say?”
My father responded to her in Italian, “He wants to know who freed the . . .”
“Hey! Hey! Who are you?!” yelled the examiner, pointing an accusing finger at my father.
“I’m her son,” he replied. “She doesn’t understand English very well, so I thought I would translate . . .”
“You’ll keep your mouth shut,” said the man. “I am the one who asks questions here. Understood?”
My father nodded.
The examiner had an Italian name, though it was clear from his diction and demeanor that neither he nor his parents were just off the boat.
He shuffled some papers. He spoke in broken Italian: “Signora Vescovi, today I ask you question so you become American citizen, OK?”
Desolina nodded obediently.
“Allora, e vero che Abraham Lincoln ha liberato I schiavi?” (“Is it true that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves?”)
Desolina hesitated, then said, “Yes.”
“Brava!” said the judge. “Brava, Signora Vescovi. Allora, numero due: E vero che George Washington era il primo presidente degli Stati Uniti?”
“Yes,” said Desolina, now with a dash more confidence.
“Molto bene, Signora!” said the judge. “Numero tre: E anche vero, Signora, che un senatore sta in uffocio per sei anni? “(Is it also true that a senator’s term in office is six years?”)
“Ma si!” said my grandmother, “but of course!”And so Desolina passed with flying colors.On the day she, with a few hundred other newly-minted U.S. citizens, took the oath of allegiance she was again accompanied by my father. 
A judge asked the candidates to raise their right hand and then, in English spiced by a dozen accents, the crowd took the oath more or less in unison.
My father was watching his mother. It was clear she didn’t know any of the words. She moved her mouth up and down, like a Charlie McCarthy doll. Half way through, she turned around to him and winked.

The author and his parents around 1945

Desolina blowing a kiss on her 90th birthday!

James can be contacted at eatnow_talklater [at] yahoo.com.
Learn more about the book, get recipes and where to purchase at link below!

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