When my father was just sixteen years old, he stole several hundred dollars from a family member and took a train with a friend from Chicago to New York, where they procured fake baptismal certificates and subsequently a fake passports. From there, they sailed to Italy aboard a steamer. My dad was in search of a family secret. Along the way, all of his money and his passport were stolen, and there he was: an American teenager alone, adrift in Mussolini's Italy without papers. After a year of wild adventures abroad, many prayers to the saints, a Grand Jury hearing, and a strong dose of Buona Fortuna, my father somehow found his way back home to Chicago.
Of Saints and Wooden Nickels is an odyssey of epic proportions, a true coming-of-age-tale that will appeal to readers of all ages, a story of one young Italian-American on a quest to learn about his family, himself, and the world outside Chicago. While I have fictionalized parts of the story for continuity, it is based almost entirely on actual events told to me by my father over many breakfast meetings.