||Recap Publishing LLC
||January 1, 2011
Rare in its scope and candor, Uncle Al Capone is the intimate portrait of an icon vilified by the American public for his thirst for blood, yet still fondly remembered by his family, especially his grandniece, who he taught to play the mandolin as well as how to swim. From Public Enemy #1 to whom author Deirdre Marie Capone might otherwise have defined as a wonderful, loving uncle, this family biography and personal memoir casts light on the myth and legend of Al Capone as well as what it has meant to be haunted by his legacy. In seventeen poignant, well-considered chapters, she reveals a softer side to the man she knew simply as Uncle Al. She explores the immediate and devastating impact of the Capone name on her life and the lives of other family members, including her mother, who married seven times in a relentless pursuit to find a protector, and her father, who would commit suicide just before the author’s eleventh birthday.
Barnes & Noble.com
Uncle Al Capone
Dramatic, unyielding, and provocative, Uncle Al Capone by Deirdre Marie Capone, Al Capone’s grandniece, is a fascinating memoir and engaging biography. This moving, highly readable portrait of the Capone family and its mob trade examines what it has meant to survive the storied legacy of the family’s forbearers. As Capone traces the arc of regret and what fuels the Capone myth, she finds redemption and a way to coexist with her legacy.
In seventeen chapters with titles like “The Making of the Mafioso,” “Trading the Chicago Outfit for the Chicago Cubs,” and “The Saint Valentine’s Day Truth,” Capone outlines organized crime in Chicago and offers vignettes of American history during the early and mid-twentieth century. Using years of research and exhaustive interviews with her aunts, uncles, and cousins, she weaves an engaging anecdotal narrative of what it meant to be a Capone, what it meant to lose her father to suicide, and what it meant to have a mother who lived in constant fear. She offers compelling evidence that Al Capone was specifically targeted for prosecution by law enforcement agencies assisted by the media, which made gross exaggerations of her uncle’s exploits and fueled a phenomenon of half-truths and utter falsehoods. From the family’s roots in Angri, Italy to the author’s ongoing investigations today, this debut offers a comprehensive and moving portrait of an iconic American family and one woman’s efforts to make peace with the past.
On the evening after I was fired, Aunt Maffie brought me into her kitchen and taught me her famous meatball recipe. First, we ground the different meats—beef, veal, and pork—kneading them together with breadcrumbs, pine nuts, and Italian parsley. After molding them into balls, we fried them in lard, and once they were brown on all sides, we baked them in the oven, giving us plenty of time to talk.
That night, I asked her the questions I had always been afraid to ask—about Uncle Al’s business, about his relationship with my father, and about the things he did and did not do. That evening was the beginning of this book.
(I think putting this recipe here is appropriate but all the other family recipes will be in the back of the book along with more family pictures.)
Fore Word Clariion
Four Stars (out of Five)
Gangster Al Capone once commented that "This American system of ours…gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it." Despite the fact that it’s coming from a known gangster, it says a great deal about the mind of the man. He sees himself as an average, successful American businessman, even if his comment understates the whole picture. It’s this human quality that Deirdre Marie Capone evokes in Uncle Al Capone, a fascinating book that’s one part biography, one part memoir, and one part remembrance of Public Enemy Number One.
As the grand-niece of Al, Capone recounts how she hid her family name for years. When a school research project leads her to come clean to her kids, she begins recalling the rich family history she once knew. It’s a tale that starts after the family emigrates from Angri, Italy to Brooklyn, New York. Capone shows that Al and her grandfather, Ralph, weren’t always members of a crime syndicate. In fact, their childhood is fairly normal, with Al finishing high school, and Ralph working odd jobs to help support the family. Everything changes when their father dies and Prohibition becomes law. Forced to earn a living for his family, Al, and eventually Ralph, head to Chicago and down the path to criminal celebrity.
Throughout the book, Capone tries to reconcile what she knows about her family with recorded history. Early in the book she writes, "I will not pretend to be able to paint a rosy picture of my uncle Al. I cannot make him out to be a perfect man, or even a good man. But what I want people to know is that he was a complex man. He was human and he had a heart."
Capone succeeds, balancing both the public history of Al, from the Valentine’s Day Massacre to his incarceration at Alcatraz, with personal photos, family recipes, and her own memories. The author recalls how loving certain members of the Capone family were, particularly her great-aunt Maffie who helps the author to see good in the men. It’s not always an easy task as the author recounts losing friends, jobs, and other opportunities, once people learned she was a descendant of the notorious Al Capone.
Overall, Uncle Al Capone is a memoir that is as complex and human as the man that it’s about. It brings a fresh perspective to the other Al Capone biographies, and finally gives the larger-than-life gangster the one thing that may have eluded him in life: to be seen as simply a human being.
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