Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Like finding an agate among river rocks": Italian American Immigrant Memoir WRESTLING WITH THE DEVIL beats the competition.

Title: Wrestling with the Devil
Authors: Antonio Russo and Tonya Russo Hamilton
Publisher: Gemelli Press
Date of Pub.: April 15, 2012
Genre: Memoir / Italian American / Italian Immigrant
ISBN 978-0982-102398 (Hard Cover)
ASIN: B008EWZ0TW (Kindle)

I had an outlet for my demons.
--Antonio Russo

Be not fooled by the staring young boy on the cover or the word "wrestling" in the title of Wrestling with the Devil (A Story of Sacrifice, Survival and Triumph from the Hills of Naples to the Hall of Fame) by Antonio Russo as told to his daughter, Tonya Russo Hamilton. This is a memoir with something for everyone, Italian Wrestler or not.

Wrestling with the Devil takes us along the simple-but-not-easy path that Russo took to Honor and the fulfillment of his Destiny. If filmmaker Martin Scorcese had not made a film about a raging bull of a boxer who cannot love, and made this story instead, it would have given American audiences a rare "insider" view of one determined man's journey from Italian boyhood to an Italian "American Graffiti-meets-Rebel Without a Cause" immigrant adolescence in Portland, Oregon to a miraculous college wrestling scholarship and finally, to a successful coaching career and induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

We are treated to a slice-of-Italian-American-Life in the 50s and 60s with all the warmth and family confusion, goodwill, great food and "immigrant drive for success" that such a cultural experience often entails.

What adds to this memoir's tenderness and heart is the equally touching fact that although it is told in the First Person, it is actually written by Russo's daughter, Tonya Russo Hamilton, who has spun a compelling, seamless narrative in her father's voice from what must have been hours and hours of taped anecdotes.