"When Gertrude Came, I Wasn't Home" is the story of the child of immigrants living in Buffalo, NY. Sickened by a pandemic, he labored in the fields, picking berries and beans. Despite the adversity, he found his way to the American dream, eventually earning his Ph.D. and going on to become a full professor at one of the nation's top public universities.
This is the story of Vincent L. Marando – the son of Sicilian immigrants, a polio victim, a competitive swimmer, and – eventually – a successful professor of political science. This is a story that takes place from 1938 to 1952. This is a story of the ways America has dramatically changed, and not changed at all.
At its most basic level, this compelling story introduces us to Vince's colorful immediate and extended family and explores the events of his childhood that had a profound impact on his adult life. We meet toddler Vince (and his family) coping with polio and its after-effects. We meet a young child exploring his world with his friends – including going to a wake or two. And we meet the 'tween Vince, finding out that his work ethic could take him to new heights in athletics and in scholarship.
But this story is about so much more than one man's coming-of-age: it is the story of how America has dealt with pandemics, immigration, the census, and the challenges of fulfilling "the American dream" as we have moved from the 20th century into the new millennium. This is a story for anyone who is interested in understanding the ways that we have changed, and the ways we haven't really changed at all – even though things look very different than they did 80 years ago.
This is a quick, compelling read that transports the reader into the charm and challenges of a world that is now gone, but that still offers us much to think about today.