Birds of Passage: An Italian Immigrant Coming-of-Age Novel

Written by Joe Giordano
Review by Viviane Crystal

Leonardo Robustelli is forced to leave Naples, Italy in 1903. A deadly feud arises between two families, and Leonardo commits a crime that forces him to accept financial support and a ticket to America. This is the historical period when Europeans believe that the streets of America are paved with gold. In reality, poverty and struggle are the norm for America’s Italian immigrants settling in the famous Mulberry Street location of New York City. Leonardo’s refusal to accept the minimum propels him into a world of violence and power, where Italian gangs are in constant conflict with the Irish immigrants running the Tammany Hall political machine that has most of the city’s politicians and officials in its pockets. Leonardo and Carlo, another Italian immigrant, avidly compete for the love of a gorgeous Italian young woman, and Carlo appears to be winning because he has money, which was deviously obtained.

The novel is an exhilarating journey through what is commonly known as “Little Italy,” with its medley of Italian dialects, delicious meals of various pastas with sauce, and scenes both comic and serious about the rites of arranging marriages for children who have become Americanized enough to marry for love, as occurs with the woman Leonardo and Carlo pursue. Birds of Passage is an exciting, accurate and all-too-true story of “survival of the fittest” for young men strutting along the American streets with hope and passion. Recommended historical fiction.