Bronx Native Pens Memoir

Published on October 07, 2021, 9:17 pm
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites 14 mins

A memory-keeper and grandchild of immigrants returns to her roots in the South Bronx with an engaging and wide-ranging memoir, set in the last half century of transformative cultural change, of how the times affected her and the country.

Vega shares personal voyages of discovery beyond traditional boundaries of gender and culture today. Moments in Flight: A Memoir: brings the immigrant story full circle; recovers lost history; shares hard-earned practical wisdom. This stunning memoir has been published by Outskirts Press—the fastest-growing, full-service self-publishing and book marketing company.

The short back story: Vega’s grandparents immigrated to the US from southern Italy in the first decades of the 20th century and settled in the south Bronx. Her maternal and paternal grandparents are in the database at Ellis Island. Many of her relatives are buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery. She spent most of the first twelve years of her life on East 160th Street, attended St. Adalbert’s Catholic School on 155th Street, and spent many a Sunday at Yankee Stadium munching on meatball sandwiches and watching greats like Berra, Ford, Mantle, and Howard play. On the verge of becoming a teenager, her family relocated to the suburbs. Says Vega, “I have always regretted not being able to stay longer.”

The popularity of ancestry research confirms the deep hunger for authenticity, meaning, connection, self-knowledge, and discovery. The CoViD-19 pandemic has exacerbated social isolation and its attendant ills. There is a greater need now for authenticity, bridges to self, others and history. Moments in Flight: A Memoir is Jo-Ann Vega’s deeply personal contribution to the quest for reconnection.

Moments in Flight: A Memoir: Brings the immigrant story full circle; recovers lost history; shares hard-earned practical wisdom by Jo-Ann Vega, published by Outskirts Press

The opening lines draw readers into an absorbing experience that starts conversations.

“I didn’t love him until I had my fourth or fifth child. It was one of those times when the message arrives as a blow. I unconsciously tensed to lessen the impact of my beloved grandmother’s frank admission, and felt the air forcibly expelled from me. For a few moments, I could not breathe or hear. Even now, decades later, my hands tremble as I type the words.

“My grandmother, in essence, was a mail order bride…

“My intrepid maternal grandmother endured the privations of more than a week of third class travel on a passenger ship from Naples, Italy, across the Atlantic Ocean, inspections at the Port of New York and Ellis Island to meet the man who had booked her passage after viewing her photograph. What would have induced Antoinette to take such risks, to leave everything and everyone behind, and to marry a stranger?“

Most of the more than 17 million Americans who today claim Italian ancestry, the 7th largest ancestry group in the US, are descendants of brave, sturdy, and impoverished Italians, like the author’s grandparents, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean as human cargo on ships and passed inspections at Ellis Island. While not welcomed in America, the Italians endured, as they had learned to in Italy.

Why does it matter? Their story is our story, part of the large tapestry that is America. Authentic people and stories are nutrients for healing, understanding, and connection; give us hope, especially during times of disruption; tell us this too will pass; help us cope and endure.

What is the storyline of Moments in Flight?

Part 1 is an extended eulogy to the immigrants and an active childhood in the south Bronx spent playing on the streets without constant adult supervision: Johnny pumps, stickball, the ice-man, horse drawn vegetable and fruit wagons, mal occhio, bocce, macaroni in numbered boxes, Uncle Dan the bookie, and Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra at Yankee Stadium.

“…Jo-Ann remembers her childhood in the 1950s Bronx, a time when Italians competed with Jews and Puerto Ricans as dominant ethnic groups in the borough. Her recollections of parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts come with an honest gaze by her to detail their flaws and graces for a more compelling narrative of family…A superlative effort by a woman with deep affections for her family and her past. She writes with sensitivity and compassion for the events and people who shaped her life.”

PRIMO, For and About Italian Americans, Vol. 23, #2, p. 60

“I really enjoyed the book… information regarding your culture which I never knew…I never thought about “those” living between 148th – 155th as being Italian. They were just ‘White’ and lived in the neighborhood…”

Earl Bryant, retired college administrator

Part 2 details the impact of the famiglia’s relocation to suburbia, the quick addition of two siblings, and growing up during the relentless cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s: Watts riots, assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Vietnam, Kent State, Neil Armstrong, Woodstock, and Watergate.

“…What makes Vega’s memoir stand out is that she intersperses her personal experiences with observations about the momentous national and international events that occurred while she was growing up … the limited vocational opportunities afforded women at the time… the beginnings of the sexual revolution and Women’s Liberation movements, race riots, the use of recreational drugs, the advent of the Beatles and so on… Against her parents’ and grandparents’ wishes, she became the first woman in her family to finish a four-year college degree…”
Mary Starke, Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Psychology, Ramapo College, NJ

Part 3 is a bridge to today and life after work and parents.

“From the very first page, Jo-Ann Vega’s artful autobiography, Moments in Flight: A Memoir pulls the reader into the happy, sad, and surprising events that shaped her life. Her writing style is delightfully fast paced, honest, and filled with twists and turns that blend notable personal experiences into a fascinating story that keeps the reader wanting to know more… Beautiful work.”
Margaret Goodwin, PhD

What differentiates Moments in Flight from similar books that are available?

Crafted and with excerpts from 40 years’ worth of writing and journaling, Moments in Flight also features useful websites, historical timelines and a Book Club Discussion Guide.

Author website: here
Free flipbook excerpt of the cover, contents, introduction, and chapter one: here

Recent reviews

“Jo-Ann Vega has written a memoir as gritty and authentic as the saga of southern European immigration to New York City. She wonderfully recounts her immersion in the intense cultural and tribal world of southern Italians and the travail by which they carved out enclaves and a place for themselves in the tumultuous Bronx of the mid-twentieth century…prose is never dull…keen eye for historical and demographic change. …Students of immigration, Italian-Americans, and The Bronx will be enriched by Ms. Vega’s scintillating coming-of-age memoir.”
Roger McCormack, Education Coordinator, The Bronx County Historical Society, “Review of Vega, Moments in Flight” 2021

“…Moments in Flight: A Memoir, is the type of book that holds you hostage until the story ends. And then you want more…For Baby Boomers, like myself, it evokes an incredible visceral response, given that so many of us are children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves. It brings back fond and painful memories of trying to find ‘our place’ as we straddled two different worlds. The world of home and family with its own language and culture; and that of the incompatible outside world of school, peer, and societal pressures. It’s an incredible psychological struggle….beautifully chronicles the different and painful stages we all experienced…while coming of age and finding “our” voice. Vega has, through her prose, captured our imaginations and our hearts!”
Dr. Maria M. Vallejo, Retired Provost & Vice President, Palm Beach State College, FL

“Both compelling and poignant, the author captures experiences and emotions duplicated in my own life growing up Italian in America… Beautifully documented memories, stories and personal poetry leave you wanting more.”
Terri Gregoretti, OSDIA, Caesar Rodney Lodge

A Q&A with Jo-Ann Vega, author, Moments in Flight

Why did you write Moments in Flight?

I am among a diminishing number of people who actually knew my immigrant forebears, brave, sturdy, and impoverished Italians who crossed the Atlantic Ocean as human cargo on ships. Sharing and preserving memories of the incredible resilience of the immigrants before their stories and history are lost forever is my way of thanking them for making my life possible.

I wrote Moments in Flight to deepen my understanding of myself, my heritage, my famiglia, and the country. I want people to enjoy the stories, the journey, evoke memories, and open the door to dialogue with others.

What makes you uniquely qualified to write Moments in Flight?

Why me? An eyewitness, participant, and informed observer of the last half century of transformative change, I bring an independent voice and perspective. I’ve been at the business of writing and reflection for a long time… For more than three decades I’ve designed and delivered educational programs for business, academic, and community groups…

How did you select the title, Moments in Flight?

Look at the cover of the book. That’s me, in front of Dad’s car, parked on the street outside our house, in the South Bronx. I still remember the gray suit. It is sometime in the late 1950s. I used the photo as the background on my 50th birthday party poster that others signed, some of whom are no longer with us. The picture illustrates the ephemeral nature of time and its passing. All we have are moments to hold on to, capture, and try to make sense of.

How can I order Moments in Flight?

At 233 pages, Moments in Flight is available from Outskirts Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and booksellers across the country. To purchase online, please visit here.

Purchase 1-9 copies and save 10%; 10 or more and save 50% off the retail price.

U.S. wholesale distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

ISBN: 978-1-9772-3324-0; Format: 6 x 9 paperback; Retail: $21.95; eBook: $9.99.


About the Author

Jo-Ann Vega is a published author and dynamic speaker with 30 years of experience presenting to academic, business, and community groups. Jo-Ann lives with her life partner and canine companion.

To learn more, please visit here.

About Outskirts Press, Inc.

Outskirts Press offers full-service, custom self-publishing and book marketing services for authors seeking a cost-effective, fast, and flexible way to publish and distribute their books worldwide while retaining all their rights and full creative control.

To learn more, please visit here.

Jonas Bronck is the pseudonym under which we publish and manage the content and operations of The Bronx Daily.™ | - the largest daily news publication in the borough of "the" Bronx with over 1.5 million annual readers. Publishing under the alias Jonas Bronck is our humble way of paying tribute to the person, whose name lives on in the name of our beloved borough.