Grant Avenue


Fiction - Literary
216 Pages
Reviewed on 07/13/2019
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Author Biography

James Celano was born and raised in Delaware. He attended parochial school and Saint Elizabeth High School in Wilmington. For two years he attended the University of Delaware before transferring to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he graduated in 1983. He has been a practicing artist all his life and, with his wife, ran a successful design business for many years. After living seventeen years in Philadelphia, he and his wife, Diane, along with their son, Tom, moved to Greensboro, North Carolina in 1992.

He published his first fictional work, "Grant Avenue", about a boy growing up in a working class neighborhood during the 60s and early 70s. Along the way, young Nick Castagno has to navigate the stern discipline of his parents and the hallowed linoleum halls of Catholic school while nurturing the dream of becoming a great artist.

He is currently working on a novel, "Venus Rising", about the same boy as a young man. In the novel, Nick struggles to find his place in the world and tries to discover what it means to be an artist in the late 20th century. He falls hard for a young woman and must reconcile his love for Minna while pursuing his life as an artist. He attempts to find an artistic home at Rutgers, then in Philadelphia, New York, London and Paris.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Grant Avenue is a work of literary dramatic fiction penned by author James Celano, and is self-described as ‘A Novel in Twelve Stories’. Focused on the theme of coming of age, our central hero is Nick Castagno, born into a working-class neighborhood and a Catholic family. From age six, we follow Nick’s journey through the nineteen-sixties and seventies in the form of twelve episodes of his life, ranging from family matters, strict Catholic school goings-on and eventually embarking on his university journey. On his aspirational journey to be a great artist someday, Nick reflects on the avenue where he grew up and comes to terms with his life’s journey thus far.

Fans of realistic drama are sure to love this uniquely arranged memoir-style work of fiction. Author James Celano brings his own experiences of parochial education into the mix, offering delightful, amusing and sometimes bizarre anecdotes of a Catholic upbringing, whilst also giving central character Nick the chance to explore the world, make mistakes and learn as each episode of his life progresses. The twelve-story format is well handled, as each tale feels complete within itself, but also serves to build the overall picture of Nick’s life and the young man he is slowly becoming. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue and the exchanges between his quirky family members, which give a realistic sense of home life and a nostalgia for the time period. Overall, Grant Avenue is an original and easy to read work which is certain to entertain and allow readers to reminisce.

Christian Sia

Grant Avenue by James Celano is a beautiful story with wonderful lessons on having and pursuing a dream, the challenges of wanting something and being led onto another path, family drama, parenting, and social issues. At six, Nick Castagno knows he wants to be an artist, but is that what his family wants for him? His education and parenting, plus the environment he grows up in, including his Catholic education, are far from helping him nurture his dream.

The story follows a sophisticated protagonist as he grows up through challenging circumstances to accept his legacy. Written in beautiful prose and in a tone that is humorous and captivating, Grant Avenue is one of those tales that resonate powerfully in the hearts of readers, especially those with a flair for the arts. The young life of the protagonist is beautifully portrayed and I enjoyed the family background in which the story takes root. The setting is brilliantly captured and the locales are described in a way that allows readers to visualize where the story takes place.

James Celano has a gift for character and it comes across in the narrative very clearly. It is interesting to follow the protagonist as he struggles in a world that doesn't align with his dreams, with strict parenting and discipline as he evolves. The conflict is both internal and physical and social constraints only help to deepen it. Grant Avenue is a familiar story to many readers, deeply moving and filled with humor. It is a very interesting and entertaining read.