By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy the four books written by local author Mario Fumarola. His heartwarming stories are those everyone can enjoy. Easy and colorful reads, Fumarola’s stories are told through the eyes of young Tony, Fumarola’s alter ego, during the 40’s and 50’s and are set in the neighborhood of Italian-American immigrants in Utica, New York.
Through Fumarola’s writing, Tony’s family and friends come to life. His readers are treated to vivid descriptions of colorful events and colorful characters. In addition to the stories of the past, interspersed throughout his books are Tony’s present day musings which add personality and charm to the overall story. It is like visiting with your favorite Uncle or Grandpa and listening with rapt attention to his tales of “the good old days.”
As Truby Chiaviello, editor of PRIMO Magazine, states, “We see the life and experiences of the author, Mario Fumarola through the protagonist, the ever-present Tony, who travels the enlightened path from boyhood to manhood in 20th century America. Fumarola’s writing is soft and fluid and contains nuggets of power that will resonate in the reader. His is a tale of epiphanies; of engaging characters, plots and sub-plots that depict the realities of poverty, cultural intolerance and assimilation in America.”
I recently caught up with Fumarola to discuss his writing career. Here are the highlights:
Please give some background information about yourself.
My parents were born in Italy, but I was raised in Utica, New York with two older brothers.
I spent 40 years in the insurance business. I transferred to Pennsylvanian in
July, 1974. My wife of 55 years, the former Mary Ann Lewek, and I have three children and four grandchildren. We have resided in Macungie, Pennsylvania since moving from New York.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In February of 1945 when I was in the fifth grade I had to write an essay about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. My teacher, Miss Bailey, liked my essay very much but had me correct the many spelling and grammatical errors and re-copy it in my best penmanship. Miss Bailey put a gold star on my essay and hung it on the class bulletin board. A week later the school principal was visiting all the classes and when he came to our room Miss Bailey made me read my essay to him. At that moment I knew I would like to be an author, but I also knew that my spelling and grammar would always be a detriment. I was far from being an exceptional student, having learned spelling by rote. I really do not think of myself as an author but rather, a storyteller.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first book was published in 2005 when I was 70 years old.
After retirement, I started to toy with the idea of writing a book. I thought some visual images would enhance my story, so I asked a friend of mine, Robert “Bob” Cimbalo, if he’d consider doing a few pen and ink sketches for the book and he agreed. Bob had recently retired from Utica College as an art instructor and head of the Art Department. He liked my writing and was encouraging. While I remained a little hesitant, Bob suggested that I have Professor Eugene P. Nassar, also a retiree from Utica College’s English Department, read my manuscript, and he, too, was encouraging. Eugene was a high school classmate of mine and a Rhodes Scholar so I trusted his opinion. Unfortunately, Gene passed on a few years ago.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written four books. A paperback which I wrote in 2016 and a trilogy which I wrote between 2005 and 2011. Depending upon what sort of mood I am in. . . nostalgic. . . philosophical. . .forgiving. . .proud. . .and lustful. . .I’ll have to say.my favorite would be the trilogy.
What are the titles of your books?
Wasn’t It Only Yesterday, Immigrants …All !!!, and The Last Of The First make up the trilogy.
My fourth book is The Editor’s Wastebasket.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I have favorable written comments from Professor Fred Gardaphe, Queens College, New York City; Truby Chiaviello, Editor of PRIMO Magazine, Washington, D.C.; and Paul Basile, Editor of Fra Noi Magazine, Chicago, Illinois.
Do you have any advice to give to those readers who would like to write a memoir?
Absolutely. It’ll test your discipline, your fortitude, and your beliefs and disbeliefs. And don’t plan on buying a yacht or a Lear jet or an Island off the coast of Oregon or Washington.
Million dollar question, are you working on another book?
Yes, I am working on another book right now. I am kicking around the title What a Ride!
Fumarola’s books are available from Amazon. To order go to www.amazon.com