An Ambition To Belong is a vivid memoir about your life growing up in 1950’s Detroit. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?
To tell the story about Polish American peasant life in inner city Detroit – and my own anxiety-driven experiences in a street gang while attending a private Jesuit college prep high school giving explicit exposure to what many adolescents experience in one way or another.
You recount many struggles you faced growing up. What is a piece of advice that you wish someone gave you when you were young?
I would have wanted to be encouraged to investigate what it was I wanted – rather than accepting what I was being told I was supposed to want.
Do you think immigrant children that grow up in religious families today face the same struggles as you did when you were young?
Yes, immigrant children are always going to struggle with not belonging, feeling like an outsider, grasping at new ways to find identity.
Even though I was second generation, my family was still so embedded in the old ways, in the exclusivity of Polish Catholic identity that it was passed on to me to still struggle with.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The 3rd book in my Leaving Home Trilogy is titled “When Angels Die” and takes place when the central character Jim is in his mid-20s and is now a professional stage actor. I’m in the final stage of completing it – so I’m hoping that it will be available by the end of year holiday season.
An Ambition to Belong, second book of the Leaving Home Trilogy, is an astute and insightful psychological journey into the inner life of Jim, an adolescent who is trying to forge his own identity. Trapped in two different worlds, he belongs nowhere: at one end his Polish immigrant inner-city Catholic family and its Eastern European peasant beliefs and terrors; and at the other a late-1950s upper-class suburban Jesuit college-prep high school in suburban Detroit where he is totally unprepared to deal with that world of money and arrogance he finds there. At home, raw gut emotion; at school emotionless intellect. At home he is a member of The Royal Lancers, a street gang where his life is threatened by Donny, a psychotically deranged fellow gang member; at school, because of his dress, especially his Ford Motor Company issue black work shoes, he is perceived as a non-entity, a non-being who has little or no existence. Confronted with racism and a savage incident of anti-Semitism, Jim rises to find the strength that forms the first layer of his conscience and his conscious sense of self.
Worship of Hollow Gods is a provocative book that challenges the ‘hollow gods’ we worship. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Worship Of Hollow Gods was an important vehicle for Jim to continue to extricate himself from the “hollow gods” his family was immersed in.
You examine family, faith and the secrets we hold. What are some themes that were important for you to capture in this book?
Yes, the unquestioned soul-robbing hollow gods were family, alcohol, and the church.
I appreciated how you approached these sensitive topics. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
What we’ve seen over and over again is the reader leaving a review/telling us how this book helped them take a different look at the family “norms” they grew up with.
What are were some reader reactions that surprised you?
The only response that was surprising was the one star review on Amazon by someone who was impatient with all the descriptions and details and saw Jim’s character as “screwed up” blaming his parents and got bored. But, that’s not surprising from someone not interested in people’s internal lives.
In Worship of Hollow Gods, James Sniechowski bears witness to the world of a sensitive, nine-year-old boy, subjected to the underbelly of his Polish Catholic family in working class Detroit. The year is 1950. The family gathers for a Friday night family poker/pinochle party. The outcome reveals a world no one ever talked about then and are forbidden to talk about now—the unspoken, the impermissible, the reality beneath every family’s practiced facade—and what lies beneath when the front has been ripped away.
Young Jim has reached adolescence and is struggling with where he fits in life. Mostly because he doesn’t know himself well enough at this point to figure out where he feels most at home. He doesn’t fit in school. He joins a gang where he can only hope to belong, but never really does. His home is more house than home with both his parents living almost separate lives. Will the relationships he fosters be meaningful enough to withstand the tumult of adolescent existence?
Jim’s story is quite representative of what teens go through. The author has woven an almost poignant tale of Jim’s struggle to find a home. The story is thoughtfully narrated with an evocative plot and colored with insightful observations. Most of all, it is candid. All has been bared for the reader to see and experience. The reader is pulled into this abyss of raw emotion and overwhelming teenage confusion from the minute Jim celebrates his entrance into the Lancers (the gang) to the point where he loses his friend.
The book makes sparing use of dialogue and utilizes mostly internal dialogues between Jim and the ‘Voice’. The reader gets in depth peeks into Jim’s mind. This helps carry the story and paints a clearer picture of what Jim must have been going through. It is actually easy to lose oneself in Jim’s mind as it is a web of unanswered questions, self-doubt and all-around uncertainty. This is brilliantly executed and is well suited to the plot.
The book is written in plain language that is easy to understand, utilizing simple language to create striking imagery. Keeping the focus on the intriguing characters rather than on some grand literary design. Each character represents some form of human insecurity or peculiarity. Almost every reader will recognize themselves in one or more of the characters. Thereby enhancing the bond between the reader and characters for a more fulfilling experience.
This book left me feeling… haunted (I suppose that’s the right word). Although in the end Jim seems to be settling down, I felt that his questions of where he really belongs and his purpose have not been fully covered. This begs the question; will human beings always carry a degree of uncertainty with them?
This is an exceptional installment in the Leaving Home Trilogy. The first one was an absolute delight, the second one is undeniably beautiful and I am positively giddy for the third.
Pages: 234 | ASIN: B07CPDY81Y
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Young Jim takes us through a Friday night hangout with his Polish Catholic family. He takes note of the things only spoken of in silence and bowed heads. Things like alcoholism and the expectations that come with the position each person holds in the family. Though only a boy, he has a unique perception of his family. His view not yet colored with the urge to show a facade. With the innocence of a child, he offers the reader an honest view of every occurrence and lets the reader into even the darkest recesses of his family. This book will have readers looking at long standing family traditions and unique bonds that inadvertently dictate behaviors and personality traits.
James Sniechowski writing is pleasantly colorful, evocatively poignant and expressive. His talent brings forth a clear and strong image in the mind of the reader. He has an extraordinary ability to weave language into a beautiful piece of art that draws the reader deep into the plot. This book reveals family secrets that are secrets to only people outside the family. There is an unwritten rule in every family that some things are to remain unspoken. No one dares to talk about those things. No one but the children, of course.
This has been described as “unputdownable” and I would agree with that. I found myself reading way to long into the night. The reader is invited into the middle of a 1950’s working class family in Detroit. Character development is vital in the reader’s relationship with this story. You will see the slight and gradual change in how the people relate through the night as more Seven Crown is poured. You can almost hear the words slur and eyelids grow heavy.
If nothing else, this book will help you take a good look at your own life and help you take stock of the ‘hollow gods’ in your own life. This is an empowering book that will help you consider the steps required to ‘leave home’ if need be. This is the kind of book that stirs the pot and brings deep seated emotions to the surface. The title holds just the right amount of tenacity for this material.
Pages: 223 | ASIN: B07CNWV4CH
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