Andrew Cecere grew up in the Pittsburgh of the 1930s, back when the idea that ancestry is destiny permeated American thought. In cities, it was the age of racial and ethnic neighborhoods. The Italians here, the Irish over there, beyond them the Poles, the blacks, and so forth. In the urban mosaic, you knew your place, and were expected to make the best of it.
Such is the prevailing mood in the Italian-American neighborhood of East Liberty that is the setting for Cecere’s novel, The Avenue, published last December by Rosedog Books. Here, two friends, both offspring of immigrants, grow up during the waning years of the Depression and choose very different paths in an America riddled with prejudice.
Pre-war Pittsburgh and the Italian community of East Liberty loom large in the novel. “The book’s setting more or less describes Larimer Avenue, a real street and neighborhood where I grew up, but the characters and story are fictional, drawn entirely from my imagination,” says Cecere, a retired attorney who lives in Richmond, Indiana.
Cecere, who recently turned 94, wrote the book on legal pads more than twenty-five years ago. “It started entirely as an exercise in personal pleasure since I’ve always enjoyed writing and telling stories,” he explains. “When I finished I had the handwritten pages typed up and pretty much forgot about it. Eventually I passed the manuscript to some friends to read. They told me how much they liked the story and started nagging me to get it published. So here we are.” [Read more…]