By Sally Deering
Joe Montaperto grew up in the 1970s, a time of race riots, culture-clashes and mash-ups. Born and raised in an Italian Brooklyn neighborhood, Montaperto’s parents moved him and the family to Roselle, New Jersey, with the hope of getting away from the racially-charged clashes playing out on Brooklyn’s streets. Instead, the teenage Montaperto enrolled in a high school where African-American teenagers were bussed in from the inner-city and Montaperto, who is of Italian dissent, how to find a way to cope in this unexpected and sometimes violent culture clash.
This all happens on the first page of THE EDGE OF WHITENESS, Montaperto’s memoir published by Oak Tree Press and available on Amazon.com and Montaperto’s website (www.JoeMontaperto.com). On Thurs, Jan.9that 6:30 pm, Montaperto will read excerpts of THE EDGE OF WHITENESS at the Heights branch of the Jersey City Free Public Library on Zabriskie Street.
“It was a story I had to tell,” Montaperto says. “I was born in Brooklyn and we moved to Roselle New Jersey. It was an insidious town – it looked pretty nice, but it was kind of a dangerous place. We were from Brooklyn. We lived in an Italian neighborhood and we moved to Roselle. It was very white and the high school was mostly black. It was kind of a weird cultural shock, like Jackie Robinson in reverse. I remember feeling totally on the outside from everybody. It was pretty rough until when I turned 15. I suddenly looked Puerto Rican and I learned how to box and that probably saved me, those two things.”
The story begins in 1969, “as Brooklyn smolders in the aftermath of the past summer’s race riots.” Montaperto and his family move from their Italian neighborhood to start fresh in a New Jersey suburb. Ironically, the high school there is “forcefully-integrated” and Montaperto is confronted with a brutal racial conflict. When he is unexpectedly rescued from a hallway ambush, he finds himself entering a new world – at least to him – of African-American culture.
Before becoming an author, Montaperto started out his career as an actor and comedian, performing in comedy clubs in the 1980’s. Later, he applied his training and background to his one man show FOUR DEGREES OF DISCONNECTION, which he performed in and around New York City. Soon, he began feeling burned out, so Montaperto went soul-searching in the Amazon jungle. Currently a Jersey City resident, Montaperto was a hit at the Jersey City Free Public Library’s annual book fair in September where he read excerpts of THE EDGE OF WHITENESS
“It’s a fascinating book,” Michele Dupuy, Public Information Officer for the Jersey City Free Public Library says. “I really related to his book.”
These days, Montaperto works as a bartender for a catering company to pay the bills while he works on his second book, a sequel to THE EDGE OFWHITENESS.
“It’s called LOVELY CHAOS,” Montaperto says. “When I was a comedian in New York, I was going back and forth between my quest for a spiritual life and the nightlife, a seedy world of crack gangs, pimps and prostitutes. I had my share of beatings and revenge. It was really kind of wild, almost a continuation of what went on in high school. It was total chaos, but I loved it. A part of me really loved the rush of everything. Being a comedian is the ultimate rush on stage and then being on the street at 3 o’clock in the morning, that’s a rush, too. Everybody’s roaming the streets looking to get something.”
Montaperto works on LOVELY CHAOS in his favorite writing spot, Panera’s Bread on Washington Street in Hoboken. That’s where he wrote THE EDGE OF WHITENESS, too.
“I’ve been writing at Panera’s for years,” Montaperto says “You find yourself coming to tears and in a public place and you don’t care. I’m hoping they never close.”
If you go:
Thurs, Jan. 9, 2014, 6:30 pm
Joe Montaperto reads from his book
THE EDGE OF WHITENESS
Jersey City Free Public Library
14 Zabriskie St.
THE EDGE OF WHITENESS is available on Amazon.com as a Kindle download; www.smashwords.com