Eggplant Alley

Eggplant Alley

by D. Cataneo
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The hero of Cataneo's intensely moving novel is thirteen-year-old Nicky Martini who lives in an apartment complex, known as Eggplant Alley, in the Bronx in 1970 and struggles to cope with a changing family, a changing neighborhood, and a changing world. Long-haired hippies, racial tension, and the divisive Viet Nam war leave Nicky longing for the good old days.

Overview

The hero of Cataneo's intensely moving novel is thirteen-year-old Nicky Martini who lives in an apartment complex, known as Eggplant Alley, in the Bronx in 1970 and struggles to cope with a changing family, a changing neighborhood, and a changing world. Long-haired hippies, racial tension, and the divisive Viet Nam war leave Nicky longing for the good old days. Nicky's complaints and remembrances revolve around the five things that ruined his childhood: the nosebleed he received from President Kennedy; the Great Northeast Blackout (which he thought he caused); the end of neighborhood stickball games; the departure to Viet Nam of his beloved big brother, Roy; and Roy's hippie girlfriend, Margalo. With Roy overseas for a year, Nicky is left behind with two distracted, worried parents. And for him, enough is enough. He decides to do something about the endless downward spiral of events. He decides to lead a crusade to revive neighborhood stickball, which he is sure will spark a return to all that was innocent and beautiful about the good old days. In the course of his year-long quest, Nicky confronts an ancient fortune-teller from the second floor; Willie Mays; his father's deep, dark secret from World War II; neighborhood bullies; and a huge romantic crush on Margalo. Most important is his encounter with Lester Allnuts, a new kid in the building who gives Nicky a fresh outlook on Eggplant Alley, and eventually on life in general. Lester is a country boy with a deep secret, and that secret makes him as eager as Nicky to revive stickball and rejuvenate Eggplant Alley. Working together toward the same goal - for entirely different reasons --- the boys develop a strong friendship. Before the year without Roy is over, Nicky learns Lester's secret --- and realizes the destructiveness of prejudice and fear, and the value of empathy and forgiveness. And he ultimately learns there is something far richer than the good old days: real hope for a better future. D.M.Cataneo is a native New Yorker and a magna cum laude graduate of Boston University's School of Public Communication who worked for 22 years for the Boston Globe and Boston Herald as a reporter, columnist, and editor. He is the author of six non-fiction books. He is currently teaching at the University of New Hampshire and lives in Durham, NH, with his family.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Nicky Martini and Lester Allnuts are fresh heirs to the pain and beauty of youthful awakening first illustrated by Scout and Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Poignant, funny and beautifully written, Eggplant Alley explores issues of race, tolerance and acceptance against the backdrop of the tumultuous sixties with results that resonate today. -- -- Crystal Hubbard, award-winning author of 'Alive and Unharmed'

"If you had the imagination to step out of genre and sell a book that could be read as a teenager or a twenty-something, and could be reread as an adult, each time with a fresh take. That's the kind of book I set out to write - something, if I may be presumptuous, like "To Kill A Mockingbird" or "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" or even "The Lovely Bones." These books stretch young readers into adulthood, and I aspired to do the same" -- D.M. Cataneo, the author

VOYA - Anna Foote
Before Nicky Martini meets Lester Allnuts, the new kid in their rundown Bronx apartment complex, Nicky divides his world into "Us" and "Them." Nicky is thirteen years old, so to him, in the 1960s, "Us" means the whites who live in their complex, Eggplant Alley, not the black people who live on Groton Avenue. "Them" includes hippies protesting the war, not normal families who have sent their older sons to war, as Nicky's has done. But when Nicky discovers Lester's big secret, he realizes the line between "Us" and "Them" is not as distinct as he has made it out to be. Nicky's effort to be a good friend to Lester, paired with his attempts to revive stickball in his racially charged neighborhood, teach him invaluable lessons about friendship and race—and empathy. First-time novelist Cataneo is a longtime journalist and New York native, so his deeply drawn characters ring true to their place and time. For teachers wanting to assign this historical novel, it could spark some interesting class discussion, especially when paired with nonfiction on the 1960s, the Vietnam War, or race relations. The slow pace of this novel may put off some readers, but the complex themes will resonate with others. Reviewer: Anna Foote
School Library Journal
09/01/2013
Gr 7 Up—Viewing past prejudice from today's perspective can be a painful experience. Cataneo manages to be bluntly accurate about the early '70s in a New York housing development where an Italian neighborhood changes into a diverse one, though absolutely not integrated. Because of people leaving the area, Nicky's friends are gone, and he constantly laments the fact that, "No one plays stickball anymore." He watches his parents worry about his older brother in Vietnam. Readers see the divided opinions over the war, socioeconomic class issues, and prejudice. Bound to make everyone uncomfortable, the "n" word is only used once, but other epithets abound. Nicky has his prejudices, too, mostly inherited from the attitudes of his family. He feels that the war has divided people between "us" and "them." When Lester Allnut moves into the building from the country, Nicky enjoys being the old hand who can show the new kid around. Readers and Nicky know that there are things awry when Lester won't let him into his apartment, but it takes running into his brother's former girlfriend for Nicky to discover that what he's always believed may not be rock solid. At the end, some lessons almost get preached, but the book will be eye-opening to today's readers. It allows them a painful peek into a past that was suffused with bigotry. Highly discussable, this is that rare historical fiction that has loads of boy appeal. The stickball games, water balloon pranks, and other shenanigans of two loner kids have an immediacy that draws readers in to care about characters who might otherwise be unengaging.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593731465
Publisher:
Bunker Hill Publishing Inc
Publication date:
09/15/2013
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,338,540
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
12 - 16 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

D.M Cataneo, a native of Yonkers, NY, graduated from Boston University and embarked on a 22-year career in Boston journalism. He currently lives in Durham, NH. where he teaches writing at the University of New Hampshire. Eggplant Alley is his first novel.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >