Gemini Joe

Memoirs of Brooklyn

Non-Fiction - Memoir
234 Pages
Reviewed on 06/12/2018
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Author Biography

When my father divorced my mother after thirty years, I cut him out of my life . Then one day, he sent me a letter. It included a short poem that he wrote. I had no idea that he wrote poetry and wondered what else I didn't know about him. So, I asked if he would tell me the story of his youth, growing up in Brooklyn. It opened the lines of communication between us and gave me an understanding of him as a man. This is a story of forgiveness.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite

Gemini Joe by Janet Sierzant is a memoir on the life and family of her father, Joe, referred to as Gemini Joe. It is set in the earlier parts of the 20th century mainly in and around Brooklyn, NY. After a long estrangement with her father, Janet connects with him in his old age and convinces him to record his life memories or stories. The story takes us through the very early parts of the century when Italian immigrants were coming to the New World.

Born in the time of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, Joe takes us through his childhood, where he, being the youngest child, always seems to be overshadowed by his older siblings and family. He describes their games, the Italian culture in their home and society in the area of New York where they lived, the siblings and their relationships with each other, his own jobs, marriage, and children, his wonderful handyman skills and craft, his alcohol addiction, his health issues, estrangement from his children, and living in a mobile home with a dog towards the end of his life, while at peace with his world for the most part.

I loved reading Gemini Joe: Memoirs of Brooklyn and it had my attention right from the beginning to the end. It is a simple story of an ordinary life, but that is precisely what makes it special. I enjoyed reading about all of the day-to-day life in their household with the big Italian dinners, fishing, sports, daily life, their connection with what is known as “the Mafia,” and so much more. Janet is able to write as a silent observer and this to her credit because the narrative genuinely feels like Joe talking to the reader and, at times, to his daughter. It’s a very engaging and well-written book and probably one of my favorite memoirs I have read in a long time!

Ruffina Oserio

Gemini Joe: Memoirs of Brooklyn by Janet Sierzant is a great memoir, the story of an alcoholic and a man who struggled with family issues and depression. It is set against the backdrop of the years following the Great Depression. Joe’s parents never found it easy providing for the family. Gemini Joe’s childhood hadn’t been a normal one, growing up in a difficult family where everyone seemed to care about their business, but the child wasn’t easy. He’d known abuse and neglect and parents who were overbearing. At seven, he'd already starting smoking. Growing up, he’d become “a charismatic, funny man who was the life of any party,” the hilarious drunk who’d get everyone hyped up, but back at home, life was misery for his family, and he terrified those in his household. He eventually pushed everyone away and divorced his wife.

Janet captures the life of this enigmatic character in a powerful way and in prose that reflects the beauty of his soul. It’s a story of pain, suffering, and redemption, one that will make readers feel a great sympathy for the protagonist, but also a story that will entertain them. In the note from the author, she explains how a short letter opened communication with her father after years of separation, a communication that opened her eyes to the beauty of his artistic soul. In that first note, she shares the poem that came along with it:

“We gathered the pearls of the ocean,
For a moment,
We counted the stars in the sky,
For a moment,
We showed our emotions,
Then, in a moment, we said
Good bye!”

This is a story that explores family dynamics, addiction, love and friendship, and one man’s journey towards inner freedom. It is deeply moving, inspiring, and told well. Gemini Joe: Memoirs of Brooklyn has great emotional depth and explores the psychology of an alienated child. As a memoir, it’s a great success; a true story rendered vividly in the reader’s mind.

Divine Zape

The note from the author at the opening of this book establishes the link that readers will discover between the author and the protagonist in Gemini Joe: Memoirs of Brooklyn by Janet Sierzant. Having had a difficult, lonely, and depressive childhood, a man grows up and makes life a living hell for his own family to the point of being estranged from his loved ones. A bottle of scotch has always been a great companion to Joe, a kind of escape from the painful experience of life. This is a boy who has very painful memories of childhood and whose sense of solitude has been so acute it has left an imprint on his soul. At the age of seven, he already knew the taste of cigarettes. But then a connection with his daughter many years after their separation sets him on the path to redemption, unveiling his heart to his daughter, and telling his story. Now readers will encounter a man who stands up against his demons—but is it enough to make up for the wasted years?

A very emotional story that will bring tears to the reader’s eyes and occasional laughter. The way Joe reconnects with his daughter is beautiful, and rediscovering her real father seems to have been a beautiful journey in itself. The story is told from the perspective of Gemini Joe, a man with sensitivity, a party man who’d always succeeded in making people laugh and have a good time, but who was never easy to deal with at home. I also enjoyed the moving, very inspiring poems that open the chapters, poems by the protagonist. This is a story that compels me to revisit my story with my own father. My relationship with my father has never been a great one and, after reading this book, I begin to wonder if he’s been deeply hurt as well? Janet Sierzant tells a story of hurt, addiction and redemption, and makes readers understand that those who hurt others are themselves hurting deeply, and that behind the ugliness we may notice in some people there is a wellspring of beauty waiting to burst forth. At times it needs only a little attention to draw from that wellspring. This memoir is deeply human and intensely satisfying.

J. Hudson

This poignant book about an Italian family growing up in Long Island is riveting. What a roller coaster ride the wife and children of a mobsters son, Joe Finno had to endure, leaving its scars on all. I found it captivating to read how a young man could be drawn into the pitfalls of the mafia at the turn of the century. Not soon enough, he made a desperate attempt to turn his life around by entering the arena of politics, only to be confronted with more conflicts. All this, and the demons that haunted him from his younger years were too much for him to endure. It demonstrates battles with temptation, and triumph over its seduction, including that of forgiveness when it seemed all hope was lost.