By: Katrina Foster
For more reasons than one, as most editors, reviewers and writers can agree, I was more than trepid about the task of reading a self-published book about the American Dream in the eyes of an Italian-American from the Bronx during the Great Depression. Worried about the flow of the book and the writer’s ability to keep the interest of the reader by telling a story and not a timeline of events, I precariously took the book with me on my vacation to South Beach, Miami. I figured that if nothing else failed, I could pretend to read it while scoping out hard bodies on the beach.
To my surprise, the book did not play into my generalized preconceived idiosyncrasies, and it became much more than a beard to my beach watching activities…I couldn’t put it down.
Armand Miele, although I am sure he shared a number of similar experiences with other Italian-Americans during the Great Depression, was able to share his childhood with a familiarity that allows even the most out-of-touch reader to identify with having to shine shoes, sell grocery bags for nickels, and feeling guilty about buying a piece of chocolate cake with your earnings because it should go to the family for survival. His constant struggle through childhood, adolescence and even trying to graduate from high school was a real eye-opener to a younger generation that cannot comprehend the prejudice that existed against other nationalities in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
His earnest ability to muster through the education system to get his degree and then be forced into the military, like so many his age at that time, to only face more discrimination and bigotry, is a disheartening, yet enlightening story of the broken governmental systems that were and are still in place today.
Mr. Miele takes the reader on a winding, hard knocks journey about facing discrimination head-on, keeping your head held high, and working towards your dreams – and he managed to reach those dreams, despite the many obstacles he faced throughout his life. From being taken advantage by a business partner and being of the first to have celiac disease, to cancer and the death of a child, Mr. Miele fluidly proved himself as an entrepreneur, a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend and most sincerely, as a man; and not just a man, a man who worked and fought for what he wanted and what he believed in – the American Dream.
It’s not often a self-published book has the ability to catch and hold the reader’s attention from start to finish and make them fall in love with the story, but Mr. Miele does exactly that. As a reader, I experienced every emotion that love is made of – anger, fear, sadness and an overwhelming joy and happiness. Read it with a glass of Pinot Noir for sure.