English Professor Publishes Fourth Book, A Novel About Two Italian-American Families
Only Sons, a new novel by Fred Misurella, Ph.D., professor of English at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (ESU), explores the intersecting lives of two Italian-American families in northeastern Pennsylvania from the early 20th century until today. Dr. Misurella’s novel was published in September by Bordighera Press.
Dr. Misurella, who teaches creative writing, journalism and Italian-American literature at ESU, will read from Only Sons on Tuesday, October 9, at 7 p.m., in the community room on the Monroe County campus of Northampton Community College (NCC) in Tannersville, Pa., as part of NCC’s Arts and Lectures series.
This is Dr. Misurella’s fourth book. His previous works are Lies to Live By: Stories; Short Time, a novella, and Understanding Milan Kundera: Public Events, Private Affairs.
Only Sons begins with an Italian-American wedding in the 1960s and reaches into the new millennium through the story of two families, the Salvaggis and Maresciallos, living near each other in eastern Pennsylvania. Sonny Salvaggi, child of a strong, unwed mother, moves from careful, prudent marriage to philandering in his 40s, to being a quixotic older man hopelessly in love with Margo, a woman half his age, whose intelligence, strength, and beauty move him in surprising ways. Jack Maresciallo, Margo’s lover and father to her son Marcello, is a talented, but unlucky artist who, after a bad period of drink and drugs in Paris and New York, straightens out and works for Sonny as director of a health and fitness club. Finally, Marcello, after a difficult youth, grows up to be a scholar of Italian-Americana who seeks to record and understand the story of the two families. It is a tale that spans the immigration of Carmine, founder of the Maresciallos, his son Anthony’s creation of a national corporation, the enmity between Sonny and Anthony, and the snowstorm and explosion that levels a mountain and a quarry, the source of the two families’ success.
“I wanted to do something with Italian acclimation and the Italian immigration situation,” said Dr. Misurella. “We have been here since the 1880-90s, and we have assimilated quite well. I wanted to tell the story of that kind of evolution and say something about the men in the family—as real men and their evolution, and as men as immigrant people.”
In one chapter the founder of the family illegally immigrates to America by stowing away on a ship to New York. Eventually he moves to Pennsylvania to begin a family. Dr. Misurella also lived in New York before relocating 34 years ago to the mountains of easternPennsylvania, where he lives with his wife, Kim, and son, Alex. He has found inspiration in such places as Roseto,Pa., which was largely settled by Italian immigrants.
Dr. Misurella, who sees Only Sons as taking place around the Delaware Water Gap, worked sporadically on the book for a number of years. Two years ago he went back to it, and the novel that resulted is half the length of the original draft.
A writer, Fulbright Scholar, lover of newspapers, books, movies and most things French or Italian (especially novels and opera), Dr. Misurella has published fiction and non-fiction in many journals, including The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Christian Science Monitor, The Partisan Review, Salmagundi, VIA, Altre Italie, and L’Atelier du Roman. He makes pilgrimages to Provence, Liguria, and Tuscanyalmost every summer with his family.
Dr. Misurella has taught at ESU since 1978. He is the faculty adviser for TheStroud Courier, ESU’s student newspaper, 1,500 copies of which are circulated every other Thursday. Dr. Misurella says teaching and writing offers a nice balance and he enjoys working with students, many of whom have a working-class background similar to his own.
Job openings in journalism and creative writing can be elusive. Dr. Misurella says that students who want to work in these fields should pursue their dreams. He adds that new forms of journalism are presenting themselves as career possibilities, such as writing for company web pages.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Montclair State College in Montclair,N.J., and master’s and doctoral degrees in English from the University of Iowa.
Dr. Misurella will also read from Only Sons at Hofstra University in New York at a conference of Italian-American studies on November 30 and December 1. For more information about Only Sons please contact Dr. Misurella at 570-422-3395.