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.
Four Years of Despair by Jalesa Morrison is a youth/teenage story that touches upon sensitive topics, such as mental health, bullying, and family issues. Jaunell Morris is a teenage girl that doesn’t fit in at school or at home, and has a lot of issues. She has trouble communicating with her family, her teachers and with making friends. Everyone around her is baffled by her outbursts and her violent episodes. Her school gives up on her and she is transferred to a different school, where things get even worse.
Jaunell is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she is in and out of hospitals all the time. Her situation is made worse by her parents’ bad marriage, her poor relationship with her older sisters and the rejection she feels from her extended family. Her only ally is her grandmother, and one of the nurses from the hospital where she’s treated. Eventually, the nurse is the one that helps her secure a place at a much better mental health treatment facility. These are heavy emotional issues, but the book ends on a hopeful note.
This book has the courage to shed light on a lot of difficult issues: mental health in teenagers, dysfunctional families, poverty, lack of access to proper education, social services and healthcare. It’s an authentic and powerful radiography of our society and how its most vulnerable members (youth, minorities, poor people) have the cards stacked against them.
The devastation that mental health issues bring into a person’s life is depicted well inJaunell’s story. However, sometimes I felt that the insights into Jaunell’s motivations, actions and reactions are not detailed enough. The book would have benefited from a deeper incursion into the complexities of Jaunell’s mental issues. I would’ve also liked to have read more about Jaunell’s mother and her relationship with her grandmother. The details of their relationship could’ve provided more insight on the family dynamics and how it affected Jaunell.
As someone who has experienced living with a person who is bipolar I would definitely recommend reading Four Year of Despair by Jalesa Morrison as this book is a real eye opener as to what people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder go through in their day to day activities. This book would be a great influence to teens who are going through this but may be confused as to why they handle their emotions different than others.
Pages: 234 | ASIN: B07R5DKMMZ
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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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Italians of Lackawanna County uses photography to show readers how the region’s Italian community seeks to preserve its heritage. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This book was extremely important to me to write, especially in a time when so many stereotypes against the Italian-American community as a whole exist. My goal was not just to seek to preserve and promote the Italian culture and heritage of Lackawanna County, it was also to show a positive image of Italian Americans working hard to celebrate their origins and how they are working to make the region a better place to live and work. Pictures tell the story in a way that words cannot—thanks to the wonderful photographers and community members who submitted photos, this book comes alive and readers hopefully get a true sense of what it means to be an Italian American living in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.
In this book you not only cover modern day traditions but you also trace the history of Italian immigration. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
I have worked as a historian focusing on Italian American studies for the past 15 or so years, always placing an emphasis on local Italian history because my region is so heavily populated with people of Italian origin, like myself. Most of the research for this book is through interviews with the citizens, as well as through archives, such as the Lackawanna Historical Society and the Dunmore Historical Society. I also consulted scholars and archivists in Italy as they also have a wonderful catalog of history surrounding the various town festivals—this helped provide a background for the festivals that were brought here and I was able to truly tie them in to their towns of origin. This kind of work is more of a historic reconstruction, because a lot of the background information has either been lost or is unavailable—because of this, I rely heavily on people in the community who are willing to share their stories.
This book showcases Italian-Americans’ pride in their heritage and place in America. What were some themes you wanted to focus on throughout this book?
As I said before, I truly wanted this book to be a positive representation of Italian Americans and show how they contribute to the good of our society. I really wanted to focus on the fact that we are three or four generations away from the original immigrant generation here in Lackawanna County, but people are still passionate and proud to preserve the traditions their ancestors brought over so long ago. I also wanted to highlight the fact that our area truly embraces everyone of all ethnicities—while I focus on Italians, I do make mention that our Italian festivals have become more inclusive and you don’t have to be Italian to participate. I think that welcoming spirit is one of Lackawanna County’s greatest attributes and I wanted to showcase it as best as I could.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have two projects that I am working on right now. The first is a passion project about the Guardiese community in the United States. My grandfather came to the United States from Guardia dei Lombardi (AV), Italy, and he was extremely proud of where he came from. These Guardiese traditions were passed down to me by my mother and inspired me to research our local as well as our national Guardiese community. My research locally is complete and now I am working on the national research.
I am also researching Sylvester Poli, a theater magnate from Italy who really revolutionized vaudeville. I was part of the Leadership Lackawanna Core Program this past year and our team project was to create a historic display in downtown Scranton’s Ritz Theater, which Poli founded in 1907. The research we did for the project took on a life of its own and I want to continue to pursue it and possibly publish a book.
Both projects do not have a set time commitment due to research, but I would like at least one to be complete within the next 2-3 years.
Boasting one of the nation’s largest and most diverse Italian American populations, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, joins old and new with events such as La Corsa dei Ceri or St. Ubaldo Day in Jessup and La Festa Italiana on Scranton’s Courthouse Square. Every town in the county with an Italian population has its own story. Whether the people can trace their origins to Guardia or Gubbio, Felitto or Perugia, the Italians of Lackawanna County all share one thing in common: a strong sense of pride in their ethnic origins. In Images of Modern America: Italians of Lackawanna County, readers will find familiar images of summertime traditions, as well as new representations of how the region’s Italian community seeks to preserve its heritage.
Posted in Interviews
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When you find yourself wondering why society at large seems to be on a self-destructive path with little hope for survival, one of the most refreshing things that you can find is the idea that not all is, in fact, lost. That idea can mean many things to many different types of people. Whether the thought that we can still turn things around gives people hope or goes so far as to create a road-map for future success, any idea or discussion breathing new life into failing systems is a positive addition to our body of knowledge. Charlie Petersen, long-time technology management specialist turned author, seems to be a good source of game-changing ideas, and many of them make a lot of sense.
Wake Up America covers a lot of ground but is centered around the idea that if we, as global citizens, don’t change our ways we are headed for destruction of two types: war and/or depression. The author, Charlie Petersen, argues that in an ever more globalized society we all have a responsibility to choose a brighter path to planetary stability and harmony.
As it would seem pretty clear that most of us aren’t willing to initiate the kinds of changes that are required to avoid a meltdown, Petersen presents his ideas for change as being ones to be taken up by the governments of the world. He maps out a solution to reduce the dependency on oil and gas, while at the same time focusing on the coming water crises. Petersen discusses what would be required for a global paradigm shift and discusses why those holding power currently are not prepared to act, although they are aware that action is needed.
How can the status quo be reimagined? Who or what forces would be responsible for initiating a new approach? The author of Wake Up America goes to great lengths to answer those questions and more in this important work.
Wake up calls usually come in a couple of varieties. Those which are too far-fetched to do anyone any good, and those that deliver logic and science together with a solid dose of reasoning to make sense of it all. Wake Up America, published by Matchstick Literary, is the latter. All in all, Wake Up America contains in depth research and unique approaches to solving the current problems facing our world.
Pages: 344 | ISBN: 1642540447
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Simon I. Perlsweig’s historical account of the lives of the author’s great grandparents and the communication between them shows a great deal of what life in Springfield, VT was like in the 1910’s. It is very possible that without this work, much of what Perlsweig writes about in Front Porches to Front Lines: One Small Town’s Mobilization of Men, Women, Manufacturing, and Money During World War One, would never have been pieced together. It is a real pleasure to be able to experience this slice of history. Simon Perlsweig does this astoundingly and it is clearly evident that he put his heart and soul into his work.
Perlsweig’s book takes readers to Springfield, and more importantly, into the lives of a couple whose lives were greatly affected by WWI. There was, of course, the impact on the couple in question, Lawrence and Gladys, but readers are shown how everything else in the small Vermont town was changed forever, as well, and to make matters worse, war wouldn’t be the only problem faced by this couple.
Historically speaking, this work is a gem. There is a wealth of information on virtually every aspect of life in the United States in the early 20th Century, and even when the familial part of the work is not considered, Front Porches to Front Lines holds its own as a historical text due to the attention given to the social, economic, and political issues, among many more.
The research is thorough, and the writing style employed by the author is academic, while at the same time being accessible to a diverse audience. With such a breadth of information contained within the pages of this book, it’s definitely a plus using language that is not too complicated.
Another aspect of the book that many readers should enjoy is the fact that there is a large amount of authentic memorabilia from the period, including recruiting posters, family photos, government documents, and much more.
Simon I. Perlsweig’s Front Porches to Front Lines, published by Husky Trail Press LLC, is certainly a work that should not be ignored. It is not everyday that we are invited into the human experience of those who lived through one of America’s most trying times, and it’s even rarer that we get such a personal touch as the one here.
Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07MY6GLD5
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A memoir of four decades into the future set against the backdrop of difficult times in the United States, starting from late 2010 and ending in 2045. This is the story of an unusual American family as they struggle against the convergence of oncoming economic hard times, social ills and political instability. From witnessing a complete economic collapse to the unfolding of a race war to a full-scale revolution, the family matriarch’s dream of riding the success of American civilization, instead veers to living the nightmare of the country’s demise.
This is the only futurology book where three of the predictions in the book have, in such a short amount of time, manifested: the disintegration of the Iran nuclear deal, Trumps tariff wars and the Russian meddling in US affairs. Read to find out further…
Posted in book trailer
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Anyone looking for an in-depth discussion on what it means to be whole and happy would certainly benefit from reading Chester Litvin’s Life of the Sailor: The Psychology of Who We Are. Litvin creates an easily digestible work on an extremely complex topic. The author comes from, as he terms it, “the Soviet Collective,” and has clearly dedicated much of his career to understanding the psychological effects of radicalization of the human psyche.
Litvin goes to great length to help his readers understand why it is that there are always certain specific roles being played out within society, and how those roles are all a part of who we are as human beings. Coming from an oppressive society that fed on reducing individualism, the author sees himself as an adventurer into the psyche where he can begin dialogues between all the different splits in the human psyche in hopes that finding ways to nurture every part of the whole will result in a complete, happy, and satisfied life and self-awareness.
Through the use of characterization, the author makes it possible for readers to quickly grasp the concept of a person’s psyche being split into a variety of parts due to both internal and external traumas. There are characters who represent all the various types of splits that one could experience along the road to finding a completed version of themselves, and Litvin expresses the vital role of these characters to create healthy dialogues in order to mend the splits that exist between them.
More than just showing his readers that it is possible for a psyche to split into sections that become distant from one another, Litvin goes into great detail to show the methods and concepts that are required to close the gaps that exist within us all.
While some may not quite be ready to take on this type of intense personal introspection, the subject matter is still important and interesting in many ways. For example, learning more about the roots of some of our most troubling psychological states, including fear, anger, and others, helps to understand and cope with these types of things whether they are internal or external.
Chester Litvin’s Life of the Sailor: The Psychology of Who We Are is an eye-opening work. Whether the concepts discussed within are new to you or you have studied them before, the author discusses many important aspects of our nature as people, and he does so in a way that can be understood by all.
Pages: 228 | ISBN: 1450219047
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