Cutter’s Island: Caesar in Captivity

Novel, 2000

This is a revenge tale based on a little known event in the life of Julius Caesar. When he was twenty five, Caesar was captured by pirates and held on an island for forty days. The story of Caesar’s liberation and revenge is briefly summarized by historians, but Cutter’s Island is a retelling in Caesar’s voice and in the context of his world.

Lost Hearts

Stories, 2010

The twenty-three stories in Lost Hearts comprise a rich and candid account of growing up and growing old in Sicily and America. The stories may be read separately, but they are also linked. Original Sin, the opening story set in rural Sicily in 1900, pushes a father-son conflict to its tragic conclusion. The protagonist, Peter Marino, emigrates to America, where his descendants – and especially his grandson, Charlie – experience the conflicts, hopes and the needs that add up to the human condition.

The Other Side: Growing Up Italian in America

Memoir, 1979

The Other Side is a sensitive, candid portrait of an immigrant culture from a third-generation perspective. Vincent Panella portrays his family in Italian villages and American neighborhoods, and what emerges is an critical but loving view of the Italian-American experience: its cloying love, intense frugality, obsession with security, and its strong sense of family cohesion. He writes of his boyhood in Queens, New York, his father’s efforts to shape his life, and the fact that “to be a member of an Italian family is never to be simply yourself.

The Other Side is also Vincent Panella’s personal journey, from rejection of his family to a realization that he cannot escape or deny his origins. The final recognition emerges after an extended visit to Italy, where he comes to know those in his family who remained behind. Thus Vincent Panella has written a book of journeys: a family’s journey from southern Italy to Hell’s Kitchen and the New York suburbs, a young man’s journey to a sense of identity. The story is given an added dimension by the author’s wife, Susan Sichel: Through her own photographs, and through her selection of photographs from family albums, Ms. Sichel further evokes the life and times of three generations of an immigrant family.