Today I have the pleasure of spotlighting Diana Rubino’s book! This interview is from her heroine, Vita Caputo, in From Here to Fourteenth Street.
What did your childhood home look like?
Vita: Did you ever see the classic Jackie Gleason sitcom The Honeymooners? They had a walk-up flat in Brooklyn. Well, ours was on Mott Street in Manhattan, but our flat looked much like that—it was called a ‘railroad flat’ because all the rooms were in a row—kitchen sitting room, bedrooms in back. We shared a toilet on the landing. But compared to other Mott Street tenements, we had it made—we had indoor plumbing. No bathtub, but a sink with running water. We didn’t have to go to a backyard privy. The bedroom was partitioned off by a curtain that I’d made—one side was mine, the other side my brother’s. Papa and his wife Rosalia had another bedroom to themselves.
What is your greatest dream?
Vita: To be a Senator or Congresswoman, but I’m happy enough as a committeewoman for now.
What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
Vita: I wish I could be calmer and slow down. I do too much—run the household because I refuse to hire help, raise our 3 kids, work and invest our savings. I follow the stock market and purchase stocks that have long-term growth potential. What’s stopping me is my drive to get ahead.
Who was your first love?
Vita: Tom, of course. My father tried to throw me together with ‘a nice Italian boy’ Roberto Riccadonna whose family owned a music store and was ‘well off’ – but he was arrogant and controlling. He threatened me when I told him I wasn’t interested in him. He and Tom got into fisticuffs when I found Roberto under my boardinghouse window singing “O Sole Mio” with a mandolin. He had a nice voice, but Tom was hardly impressed.
What's the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?
Vita: When Papa and my brother Butchie were arrested for the murder of Tom’s cousin Mike. It tore me into pieces, because Tom didn’t want to believe Papa and Butchie were the killers, but evidence pointed to them. We made it our quest to find the real killer, and we did. It created a huge rift in our relationship of course, but we overcame that as we got through all the other hardships and prejudices that tried to keep us apart.
What was your first job?
Vita: I started out as a sweatshop worker sewing ‘shirtwaists’ (blouses), and now I’m a committeewoman, with a view to being New York City’s first female mayor.
What’s your level of schooling?
Vita: I left school at 16 to go to work in a lampshade factory.
Sassano, Italy, near Naples
Where do you live now?
Greenwich Village, in a brownstone on East 14th Street.
Do you have a favorite pet?
They’re all favorites, two mongrel pups, Charlie and Shirley, two cats Romeo and Juliet, and assorted goldfish whose names we can’t keep up with!
What’s your favorite place to visit?
Coney Island, to sit on the beach, frolic in the ocean, eat those delicious hot dogs and fried dough, and stroll the boardwalk!
What’s your most important goal?
To see my three children become successful, respectable citizens. Doing all right so far—my daughter Assunta (Susan) owns a clothing store, my son Virgilio (Billy) writes Broadway musicals and my youngest Teresa (Tessie) wants to be a baby doctor.
What’s your worst fear or nightmare?
That the stock market will crash again or some other disaster will plunge us back into poverty.
What’s your favorite food?
My homemade lasagna with my grandmother’s sauce recipe (it’s a secret)
Are you wealthy, poor, or somewhere in between?
We’re finally members of the solid middle class.
What’s your secret desire or fantasy?
To sing in one of my son’s musicals.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I’d buy my own airplane and give the rest to charity.
From Romantic Times:
Immigrant Vita Caputo escapes New York’s Italian ghetto and secures a job in a Wall Street bank, along with a room in a Greenwich Village boarding house, thanks to Irish police officer Tom McGlory. With her new beginning, Vita even joins the Industrial reform movement.
Tom is an honest cop, with little interest in women until he meets Vita. When Tom’s cousin is murdered and Vita’s father and brother are arrested for the crime, the two team up to investigate and soon discover that they are falling in love.
Vita and Tom face economic problems, prejudice, and cultural differences. Ms. Rubino’s research is obvious.—Kathe Robin
From Rhapsody Magazine:
FROM HERE TO 14th STREET by Diana Rubino is all that and then some. Everything about this book is what writing should be--original and wonderfully executed. Bravo!—Karen L. Williams
From Book Nook Romance Reviews:
Diana Rubino has done a masterful job of researching the life of Italian and Irish immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York, its society and politics and crime. She paints a vivid picture of the degradation immigrants of Italian descent suffered, particularly at the hands of the earlier Irish immigrants they succeeded. Barred from all but the most menial jobs, forced to live crammed into the worst slums, she makes it easy for the reader to understand why many of them turned to a life of crime and violence. Not only can the reader see what Vita and Tom see, they can smell it, hear it, and taste it.
Vita is a delightful heroine, as full of vivid life as the city she lives in. Stubborn, determined to escape the ghetto in which she lives and make something of herself, she never loses her commitment to and love for her family. That very devotion, however, threatens her growing relationship with Tom, since the Irish and Italians are the Capulets and Montagues of 19th century Manhattan. Although she cannot help falling deeply in love with him, she knows that her father and brothers will never permit her to spend her life with him. And, in a departure from the usual super-masculine hero, Tom is a sensitive, secret poet as well as a cop.
If you like vivid characters and a book that carries you effortlessly back to an earlier time, FROM HERE TO 14th STREET is a good choice. –Elizabeth Burton
MORE ABOUT THE LOWER EAST SIDE:
One fascinating place to visit is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
at 97 Orchard Street, once an actual tenement. They have tours describing life as it was back then, with each floor of the building decorated (if you want to call it ‘decorated’) to depict each time period when immigrants lived there.
I read a lot of books to research this story. One book I remember reading as a kid is How The Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, a photographer and reformer of the time. The photos in his 1901 book vividly illustrate the poverty and deprivation of the times, for adults and children alike.
My passion for history and travel has taken me to every locale of my stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. My urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. I live on Cape Cod with my husband Chris. In my spare time, I bicycle, golf, play my piano and devour books of any genre. Visit me at www.dianarubino.com, www.DianaRubinoAuthor.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor, and on Twitter @DianaLRubino.
Purchase FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET